Spring Into Designer Button-Downs.
Spring has sprung meaning balmy nights at backyard barbeques, rooftop parties and late night strolls along boardwalks. Much like the formal occasions of life that call for suits, men tend to need an armory of casual to dressy button-downs to wear everywhere else. Whether you’re having a romantic dinner on a restaurant’s patio, or enjoying a concert in an outdoor amphitheater, if you’re a guy, chances are you’ve got some version of the standard uniform on: nice shirt that could easily be tucked in and dressed up with a tie, or perfectly acceptable untucked shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the forearm. With so many occasions, especially during spring and summer when jackets aren’t required and special events continuously pop up, it’s a great time to add options to your fashion fleet.
Below are four independent designers that continue to move the fashion needle forward producing novel pieces that leave lasting impressions. All four make their clothing in America and pride themselves on using superior fabrics and construction modalities to create their collections. I imagine the shirts you purchase from these designers will quickly become your favorites and edify your “cool status” in the eyes of their many admirers.
Since 2008 Simon Miller’s authentic denim has won over male fashion cohorts one pant leg at a time. Heavily inspired by the sweeping plains of the American Southwest, in 2014 Daniel Corrigan and Chelsea Hansford expanded their brand’s horizons by venturing into men and women’s ready-to-wear and leather accessories. With the expressed desire to create “lived-in” apparel, Simon Miller utilizes advanced wash treatments to create textural fabrics. The brand has skillfully constructed modern pieces that fit like a glove but feel easy and comfortable to wear (simmonmillerusa.com).
Just after grabbing lunch at Joan’s On 3rd, I stepped into the Parliament boutique and saw this whitewashed memory of what used to be a simple plaid. As I got closer to it, more of the light blue pattern revealed itself along with a deconstructed frayed hem that made the shirt raw and playful. Soft as a baby’s bottom is what came to mind when I began to physically inspect it. Trying it on, I couldn’t believe how good the material felt on my skin. The fit was so relaxed—it looked sharp and tailored but allowed me to freely move. 100% cotton: I love my Simon Miller m100Pardo—bleached Japanese indigo plaid. Based in Los Angeles with a showroom in NYC, this American made brand is redefining modern sophistication.
Thirty years ago, when vintage apparel was all the rage in Japan, Hiroshi Kato embarked on a quest to create the “ultimate garment.” He began examining vintage Levi’s and the like—familiarizing himself with intricate stitch techniques and vintage trims. Using sumptuous fabrics heavily inspired by his analysis of vintage construction and functionality, Kato began creating singular pieces of his own. Japanese fabrication techniques hailing from Kyoto coupled with a reverence for classic American sportswear birthed a brand synonymous with elegant modernity (kato-brand.com).
Browsing through the racks of American Rag on La Brea Ave, it was the fabric that stopped my shuffling. From the feel of it, I could swear I’d already worn and washed the shirt a million times; it was so cuddly soft. The pale pink button-down hugged my body in all the right places and felt just as light as it was supple. The superior craftsmanship of Hiroshi Kato’s ultimate garments is apparent from yoke to cuff.
Incognito fashion designer Daiki Suzuki prefers his unconventional approach to creating urbane American sportswear to speak for itself. It explains why his label Engineered Garments is camouflaged amongst the couture of higher profiled fashion houses that spend considerable capital marketing their brands. But this New York manufactured label is hanging along side elite company because of its atypical fabric selections and revolutionary methods of utilitarian construction. Known for avant-garde outerwear and a military influenced aesthetic, the structure of the clothing is masculine and toys with standard proportions. Suzuki’s attention to detail is unparalleled as well as his unabashed use of the whole color wheel. Fabrics and materials that span the decades seem to show up in fresh and unprecedented ways, which initially is what attracted me to the brand (John Dugan, nothingmajor.com).
Anchored in stark white, the micro shapes in various greens, blues, reds and yellows almost play a linear game of Tetris—stacking on top of each other in color blocks up and down the shirt. There is nothing random about the pattern—in fact the cogency of its assemblage becomes clearer as I gaze at it. Despite what the Magasin’s sales rep suggested, I purposely got the next size up so it would hang loosely but still fit in my shoulders. Light and airy, the cotton breathes allowing me to fully embrace the polarity between stylish crisp lines and casual comfort—an aesthetic Japanese fabrication achieves so masterfully.
A pocket here, a button there, it’s no use in trying to predict which embellishments Suzuki will dream up from collection to collection. But you can bet that Engineered Garments rejection of the status quo will always produce a cohesive collection that communicates sui generis style.
For the last five years I’d say the majority of the button-downs I’ve purchased have come from Gitman Bros. Reasonably priced, their classic silhouettes meet intriguing colors and patterns with subtle details that serve to differentiate the brand from the rest. Since 1978, Gitman Bros. (Max, Alfie & Shelly Gitman) has kept it simple—seldom deviating from the straight and narrow when it comes to the dependable fit and structure of an Oxford shirt. Without being gimmicky or compromising the integrity of their design, the American made shirt maker expresses personality in subdued ways like using surprising stitching techniques or an unusual placement of a chest pocket or elbow patch. Launching Gitman Vintage in 2008, the brand returned to its roots by updating catalogued fabrics that have been reimagined through color and style (Gitmanvintage.com).
“Gitman Vintage pays tribute to the brand’s rich heritage with a unique interpretation of the past. Each season, we return to the company archives and select fabrics from old-line books, tweaking them with dyes and reworking patterns, scale and construction. Our philosophy has always been to bridge the old and the new,” (Gitmanvintage.com)
While shopping at the Gentry boutique in Williamsburg Brooklyn, I came across a beautiful plaid button down from Gitman Vintage. Crisp and tailored, this slim-fit cotton and linen blend feels light on my body—catching the breeze as I go about my day. Beyond its breathability is the vibrancy of its colors. Bold jewel tones balanced by cream lines make it an unpredictable color scheme for spring/summer. That is the genius of Gitman Bros. design and why details like that attest to its popularity. When I buy a Gitman Bros. shirt, I know I’m investing in a well-made garment that fits impeccably and provides a distinct twist on traditional style.
All photos were taken by Gerardo Guillen @gerardoguillen