Clutch Cafe: A guide to my favourite brands

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There is a handful of menswear shops in London that I recommend regularly to friends visiting from abroad. 

They include Trunk, Connolly, Drake's and Anderson & Sheppard Haberdashery. All boutiques, all founded in the past decade. 

The most recent addition to that list is Clutch Cafe, the shop in Fitzrovia founded by the Japanese magazine of the same name. 

It's just around the corner from my office at Mortimer House, and I've whiled away many a happy hour browsing the dozens of Japanese and other brands, with a coffee in-hand from the cafe upstairs. 

But Clutch has one issue, and that is that there is just too much in there. Too many brands, too many qualities, too many styles, for anyone to easily get their head around. 

On more than one occasion I've seen a friend wearing a cool piece, asked where they got it, and been told it was from Clutch - even though I'd never seen it before. 

To a certain extent, this is a natural result of why the shop was set up. It was intended as a foreign home for all the brands featured in Clutch magazine, and magazines cover far more brands than any normal shop would stock. 

So there are 15 brands offering T-shirts. Priced from £45 to £230. And most significantly, there is a variety of styles - from very classic and wearable, to much more unusual and period. 

One of the purposes of this piece, therefore, is to provide a guide to the brands worth looking out for. The gems that offer great quality, are easy to wear, and which you can't find anywhere else in the UK - often, anywhere outside Japan.

There are, perhaps, a few different categories here. 

The first is brands that are regularly featured on Permanent Style and other classic-menswear sites, and which at least some readers will be familiar with. 

For those brands, Clutch is an opportunity to find different models or designs, or maybe just access them more easily. 

They include Alden, Coherence, Paraboot, Red Rabbit and The Real McCoy's. There are models of Alden not available at Trunk - such as the snuff suede boot shown above - and Paraboot is sold few places anymore, particularly now Drake's does its own shoes. 

The Real McCoy's have been headquartered in the basement of Clutch until recently, as they were between stores. The new one should be open soon. 

But even when that's up and running, Clutch will have a selection of The Real McCoy's products. I'm a particular fan of the knitwear, but actually the one thing you can always count on with McCoy's is that the quality will be top notch. (And you can count on the price being high...)

Another way to categorise the brands is by quality level, and The Real McCoy's is a good example of one that belongs in the very top tier. 

Also in that category is Buzz Rickson, which like McCoy's does faithful recreations of old garments - but usually in wearable cuts and styles. 

A favourite Buzz Rickson piece of mine is their duffle coat, which I wore for a shoot with Clutch last year. If someone told me the wool was literally bulletproof I wouldn't have been surprised. 

Other brands at that level include Himel Bros, the Canadian horsehide specialists. I bought their horsehide suede jacket (pictured above) from Clutch as a birthday present to myself this year. 

And of course, Coherence, popularised by The Armoury and available at Clutch as of Spring/Summer 2020. 

The image of Coherence above is a good illustration of the importance of a third category - style. 

Many Japanese brands aim to recreate styles from the past. But some bring back wearable styles and cuts, while others delight in ones that are obviously 'period' and verge on costume. 

In the image above, the polo shirt falls into the latter category, and I wouldn't wear the bucket hat either. But on top of them sits a Coherence jacket (the Vernon II) that is really nice. 

It's navy, unusual only its details (like those deep breast pockets) and like most Coherence designs, is elevated mostly by its material - in this case an exclusive wool/linen/mohair. 

A PS visitor to Clutch Cafe could easily browse last this mannequin without taking full stock of the Coherence design. Hence the need for explication and categorisation. 

There are a few other brands I would recommend as very wearable - good-quality classics that can be woven into any modern wardrobe. 

They include Cushman for its loopback knitwear (above), which is comparable to Merz b Schwanen but often comes in a greater range of colours and washes. 

There's Warehouse, which has a lot of different products but I personally like the plain T-shirts. They're circular knitted (no side seam) in heavier, tougher cottons like most vintage-inspired tees. But not too short or square. 

A friend recently asked what T-shirts I would recommend that were tougher than Sunspel, and might stand up better to life with small children. Most of these (plain) Japanese tees would be good there.

Jelado is similar to Warehouse in selling across a few different areas, though I'd particularly recommend the shirts - they do have some fairly unusual things in there. 

PRAS makes vulcanised canvas trainers, similar to someone like Doek but a little chunkier and more casual. 

And if you like rayon shirts - arguably a little period, but becoming more mainstream - then it's worth checking out Muller & Bros

The last category is brands selling more esoteric designs, and often too vintage-looking for me. But there are some diamonds in there. 

They include Stevenson Overall, from whom I have a really nice thermal, Belafonte, and Soundman. 

There's also Chamula, which works with artisans in Mexico, and Monitaly. Readers might be familiar with them from No Man Walks Alone. 

Epperson Mountaineering and Rocky Mountain Featherbed both make climbing-inspired gear, as you can guess from the name. But they're a little synthetic for me to wear casually. 

Allevol have some great hand-knitted knitwear (pictured below). Haekels make nice, natural-feeling perfume. First Arrows makes silver jewellery. 

And I don't think I've even mentioned half the brands yet. 

I love Clutch. It's full of treasures. But it's taken me six months to get a sense of everything. 

Hopefully this piece is a small help in narrowing down your search: a way into browsing online, or focusing a trip to the store. 

Oh, and there is of course an amazing range of magazines. Which you can sit on a bench and read, right next to the cafe stall. 

I do occasional styling work for Clutch, putting together outfits that are photographed for their Instagram account - and for which I am paid. However, as with everything else on PS, no payment for content is possible. 

More on our policy on that, here

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Matthew V

I drove past the other day and it is definitely on my list of places to explore. Nothing online really replicates the discovery of new things in person, in a great shop.

Anonymous

Morning Simon, a little concerned about two of the photos on today’s post.
The suede jacket looks too big for you particularly in the width of the arms and their length.
On the other photo you’re wearing a denim trucker jacket which has always struck me as a high Street look which should’nt be emulated by sartorialists.Sorry to be so negative but it’s my honest reaction.

Jason

Nice to see your comment about ‘The close fitting Italian look being less and less relevant ‘.
It’s a look that I’ve never supported and railed against for a very long time. It’s nice to see looser, better proportioned styles emerging both in tailored and casual clothing.
Perhaps you could do an article on this ?

Bamboccio

Having followed that look for 20 years I can say that it works up to a certain age. Sadly sizing up the wardrobe is an expensive activity.

Manuel

Is your statement regarding the irrelevance of a close-fitting Italian look just relating to suede jackets, or is it meant to be an overall one?
I am wondering because you are discussing the problem of the boxy cut of Japanese T-shirts below.

Best regards,

Manuel

Jason

One of the things that has always fascinated me about menswear is its gradual evolution and the way it repeats itself but never in absolutely the same way.
For a good while now, we’ve seen the gradual easing out of the seams. The move to a softer look with the re-introduction of pleats, DB jackets, wider lapels and a move away from the ridiculous ‘Honey I Shrunk The Kids’ or trussed up militaristic looks.
The moment of the adult flaneur is upon us !

Joseph

Seems a lovely place to spend an entire weekend afternoon!

Simon, you may have meant to link to your content policy, but the link isn’t there.

Carl

Interesting! Seems like a store to visit when travel is back to normal.

I am looking for high quality tougher (thicker) t-shirts with a vintage feel. But not extremely boxed. How would you compare the style and quality of Real McCoys and Warehouse? Or do you see any other brand as a good contender?

Michael

If you can’t find a satisfactory T-shirt, I recommend you try the US brand ‘Runabout Goods’. I have about a dozen of their tubular knit T-shirts and, unlike my Sunspel T-shirts, they have lasted me years.

Felix

If you don’t insist on any retro feel or brand image, there is a newish Dutch company called No Label that sells the usual basics – they have a series of thicker tshirts called “Kaos” which I really like, they fit very well (but nor overly slim) when you are slim/athletic and tall. Also a fair price, its one of these companies like Asket basically. Not tubular though in case that’s important.

AlexM

Very helpful article Simon – thank you. I spent a very rushed 10 mins in Clutch earlier this year, finding it both exciting and overwhelming. Needs a longer visit – although my hunch is that there won’t be much to fit someone who’s 6’6” tall … I look forward to being pleasantly surprised.

Nigel

Hi Simon,
I love a good denim jacket, where did you get yours? I don’t recall you featuring it before. From what I can see, it It looks like a nicely broken in Lee 101.

Anonymous

Simon can you please suggest menswear shops like his in NY or USA

Kenny

I generally recommend Marylebone as a great area to shop and eat in London. Before the lockdown, Mayfair had become too crowded with tourists. In recent years, several of my favourite brands in and around St James’s have lost their way under new management or ownership – e.g. Hilditch & Key, Turnbull & Asser, New & Lingwood, Gieves & Hawkes and Hackett.

Marylebone is buzzing and a refreshing change. Chiltern Street is always my first port of call, perhaps starting with lunch at the Firehouse. I agree with Simon that Trunk is excellent. Sunspel’s store is the brand’s best by a long way. John Simons usually has something of interest and Grey Flannel is worth a visit. Then it’s on to Luca Faloni and Slowear on the High Street and finally Anglo Italian before a glass of wine at The George.

Andrew Hughes

Hi Simon,

Thanks for another interesting piece.

I’ve bought a few Real McCoy items online and from Clutch. Max and the other people who work there are very knowledgeable about the background history of items, the fabrics, etc.

The quality of the clothing is amazing and as you say it is expensive. Over time I find their clothing ages well, and when the times comes I will have them repaired. If I had extra cash to spend I would gladly buy more pieces.

Andrew

PB

Hi Simon, I am looking for the ultimate loopback sweat-shirt and believe you must have tried Sunspel, Merz and now Cushman (at a different price level). How would you compare them in terms of cut, comfort, details and value for money ?

Massimo

Hi Simon
…..my post could be….strange but, I have this perception that the house behind You in the photo with red sweater…..is your home. Is this the truth?
Best Regards and…….sorry for my curiosity.

Ralph

Shhh! He’s visiting his mistress! Why else would he be wearing that bright red sweater!

Adam Z

I like clutch partly the very reason you say is a problem. If I go into trunk I know what I’m getting. But if I go into clutch it is much more of a discovery and I may end up with something I would never have thought I’d wear. Or even knew existed. It’s the range that makes it a great shop in my opinion.

Anonymous

Do you still recommend Drakes? It’s been a long time since you’ve featured products from them and their style has become decidedly comic book in recent years. Did remain a places for ties but ties themselves are becoming increasingly uncommon.

It’s a pity as used to have to spend lots of time narrowing down what I wanted to what I could afford, now I have to spend that extra time to find anything worth buying and often leave with nothing

Michael

I agree that Clutch Cafe is wonderful, but the prices are absolutely eye-watering. And not only compared to Japanese prices at somewhere like Hinoya, or at online retailers such as Denimio or Okyama denim, but also compared to the prices charged at certain retail stores here in Australia. Unlike the Real McCoys, Buzz Ricksons is not a high-end repro brand and is generally affordable everywhere – except at Clutch Cafe! I guess this is the difficult value proposition put forward by stores such as Clutch. It’s nice to have a “bricks and mortar” retail space in central London, but most people simply aren’t prepared to stomach the markup required to cover the cost of renting some of the most expensive retail space in the world.

PJM

I was a little disappointed to read ‘ANONYMOUS’ state he was concerned about Simon’s trucker jacket. The denim debate will always rage on, but, let us not forget that denim is timeless. A classic. It’s a fabric that transcends age, class and sex – along with the four seasons. Denim is, and always will be, (and should be) considered a wardrobe staple for the discerning gent. To close, perhaps consider that if denim was good enough for ‘off duty’ Agnelli, it’s good enough for you.

AJ

Simon, what jeans are you wearing in the fourth photo from top? is that raw denim which has lightened over time or a vintage jeans. Also, would be good to know your thoughts on the Japanese denim brands like Full Count, Momotaro, Iron Heart etc. Thanks

Enzo

Hey Simon, did you ever alter those vintage 501’s that you’re wearing in the photo? They seem to have a great fit on you. I recently got a pair of Resolute Japanese jeans in the same 60’s 501 silhouette and while I do love the overall fit, I did have to size up to compensate for the thigh area. The pants are loose on the waist. Any thoughts of bringing the waist in by 1.5-2 inches most for a snugger fit on my body? Thanks.

Martin

Simon, did you try on Coherence´s Corb raincoat? It looks nice but rather too short.

Chingstein

Covid willing I should be in London in January and Clutch will be a must visit. My favorite brand names in one place… Big fan of workwear and denim. Here in Hong Kong, we have two shops that provides me my fix – Take 5 and Benny’s Store – but Clutch sounds like it’s on the next level. Thanks for the write up, Simon.

Gab

Hi Simon, I noticed on IG (PWVC page) that the Donegal coat is about to be relaunched. The color seems quite different, now brown? Though difficult to say online.

Gab

Argh 🙂 I’m sure it will look great but I already own an overcoat in a similar color. Let me know if a grey one in size 4 has been hiding somewhere… Cheers

Vincent

Hi Simon, may I ask what is the size of the Himel Bros jacket you bought? Many thx.

Ben

Hello Simon,

Just wondering, having spent a little time with it, what do you think of the Himel Bros jacket?

Although not ideal, looking at the measurements, I think I would have to get the sleeves altered if I purchased it. Do you think that should be possible?

Thank you.
Ben

Anonymous

Very disappointed with Clutch. 3 emails to ask about a product detail with a mind to buy… No reply! Not really good enough for a high end establishment.

Michael

Hi Simon, I really like the look of the Himel bros. suede jacket and am thinking about purchasing it myself. Any advice on what shoes to wear with Leather/suede jackets? What should I take into account material, color and formality wise? Cheers

Michael

Thanks for the inspiration Simon. Would a black leather jacket be something you would consider for a cold colour wardrobe as well?

Robert

This is how I use PS. A comment on your Real McCoy Chino review went off topic and queried wearing of bandanas. Your reader mentioned offerings at Clutch Cafe. Unfamiliar, I checked their website and found a couple intriguing options. But before ordering I wondered if Mr. Crompton might have an opinion. Of course he does and here I am! You have the power to help a bricks and mortar London shop achieve a global reach. And on the other side of the Atlantic I can get snarky comments from my wife when I show up for breakfast wearing a one of a kind colorful bandana. Thank you Simon.