We have similar influences in classic menswear and vintage sportswear. We both love tonal dressing, hats and larger jackets. But Ethan has more Ivy influences, wears high-waisted trousers, and is more likely to combine more unusual pieces (particularly vintage).
Also, where my aim is generally to be simply well-dressed, to be subtle and refined, Ethan is more experimental and happy to stand out. Age and environment probably have something to do with it, but it’s just as much about personal aims too.
The similarities show we have principles in common – which then makes you respect the differences, and question them. Would I wear white socks with tailoring? Why I don’t wear more patterned shirts? Can I pull off a bucket hat?
I would probably reject the vast majority, but as I’ve written about with fashions, consistently challenging your style in this way is the way to stop it becoming stale.
Which of course is why I asked Ethan to take part in this series, and explain the combinations in these, some of my favourite outfits.
For those that don’t know, Ethan lives in Los Angeles and runs his own blog, A Little Bit of Rest, as well as the podcast Style & Direction. He can be found on Instagram at @ethanmwong.
Outfit 1: Casual suit, white socks
Ethan: “I like this outfit because even though the outfit is tailored, it still feels very casual.
It helps that the suit isn’t a true dark navy, but the use of a casual shirt and suede loafers helps too. I think the knit tie adds a bit of somberness to the outfit, as well as being a slight Ivy nod; a repp tie or geometric would make it too dandy in my opinion.
The suit is custom from Ascot Chang suit (in Holland & Sherry Crispaire) with a 1950s khaki workshirt, Kamakura knit tie, and Alden x Brogue ‘Harvey’ tassel loafers.
I’m sure some readers will be unsure about the white socks. Personally I find white socks (and variations of cream and light grey) wonderful!
I think it’s best to think of them as a way to make tailoring feel and look less stuffy. I’m sure your readers know plenty of menswear guys who do it, and what I’ve found is it tends to go well with casual elements like wider silhouettes or more rugged cloth, like flannels or cotton twill.
Starting out with jeans, chinos, and odd trousers is a great way to get used to it. Not everyone has to do it with smart tailoring, but I like the feel. I’d definitely avoid actual gym socks though.
Outfit 2: Casual jacket, bucket hat
“I feel like this outfit is inspired by a few things: a little bit of Drake’s/Aimé Leon Dore, the tonal ideas of Saman Amel or P Johnson, and of course all done in my way, which means a bit more vintage and Ivy.
The jacket is a Marling & Evans houndstooth from Ring Jacket USA which has a bit of a broad shoulder and a fuller cut. I typically like more contrast with my trousers, but since this was a sunny day (and I was feeling that tonal inspiration), I paired it with these vintage ecru/light khaki Levi’s 501s.
They’re from the MiUSA [made-in-USA] era, so they have a high rise and straight fit, which I like from a jean. My shirt is a cotton sportshirt (Cuban collar) from the 1940s, though the long points are tucked in to avoid the #menswear ‘runaway collar’ that is often done with similar shirts [where the collar is worn over the top of the jacket’s collar]. To break up the light colours and make the fit more Ivy, I added my cotton Drake’s sleeveless cardigan.
The shoes are Wallabees from Padmore & Barnes in a light suede to slightly echo the light colours of the rest of the outfit. They also provide an Ivy nod, though are rather contemporary too given how often I see them.
The most unusual thing here is probably the bucket hat. I probably benefit from the fact that I’m still young, so being childlike seems more appropriate!
I think leaning into the fun of an outfit allows you to pull off a bucket hat, echoing the use of white socks. Bucket hat with jeans and sportcoat sans tie? Yes! Bucket hat with a business suit? Probably not. I never liked ballcaps so a bucket hat fills that space for me. I like to figure out if the bucket hat feels natural to the outfit rather than a fashion accessory.
Outfit 3: Vintage knit, striped shirts
“I love this outfit. If I remember correctly, I put it together when I was watching The Crown for the first time, so this is probably inspired by some scenes in the 1950s.
It’s a vintage Brooks Brothers Makers shirt in a bengal stripe, underneath a 1940s sweater vest, with its characteristic close fit and wide ribbing. The outfit continues that tonal feeling I’ve been having, so the navy blue is repeated in a vintage club tie and a wonderfully plush wide-wale cord trouser from Magill.
A key part of this outfit I feel is the striped shirt. I think it’s no secret that I have an intense love affair with striped shirts: I find them so much more interesting than plain ones, which I seldom wear outside of casual pieces. If you look at old 1930s Apparel Arts illustrations, you’ll see that many men are wearing striped shirts with seemingly every pattern: geometrics, bold abstract designs, and a plethora of stripes.
I wear my stripes in the same way, but with a bit of attention to colour. For example I find that blue- or burgundy-based patterned ties go with everything, so that’s what I typically wear, particularly with abstract geometrics and repp stripes/clubs. Navy-based ties are probably best since they’re more versatile and have a much more somber feel.
Outfit 4: Full cut, alligator belt
“This outfit might be peak Ethan, as in the thing that is most me, at least where tailoring is concerned.
It’s a contemporary take on vintage tailoring that combines pieces from both eras. The jacket is another one from Ring Jacket USA, this time in a dark-brown plaid made from their proprietary Balloon cloth (a must in Los Angeles).
The shirt is an old custom piece I got years ago that has the spearpoint collar seen in old films and Esquire magazines; you can see that the taper is much more apparent and it’s shorter than what we saw in the 1970s.
The tie is a deadstock green polka dot from the 1930s-1940s, which goes wonderfully with the blues and browns of the top half. The elephant-grey trousers are taken from a 1940s gabardine suit and are perhaps my ideal trouser silhouette, despite the fact I don’t own many dress pants in this cut. The shoes are my beloved Alden tassels in Color 8 shell cordovan.
It’s interesting I’m wearing a belt here. When I commission trousers or suits, I typically ask for side adjusters just to keep things streamlined. However, I do like wearing belts! Part of the reason I’ve got one here is that a lot of my trousers are vintage, and belt loops are common: vintage jeans, chinos, and occasional flannel trousers from Polo RL.
I also like the mid-century charm of a thin, exotic leather belt; this vintage one is alligator, has a one-inch width, and has a fun western buckle. The gabardine trousers have thin dropped loops on a Hollywood waistband, so it was practically begging for this belt!
Outfit 5: Western looks and hat angles
“Clearly this was inspired by the Bryceland’s aesthetic, though I’ve owned some of these pieces for a while and have done similar outfits in the past; it could be retroactive!
My jacket is again from Ring with the trousers a vintage pair of Polo RL flannels in dark green. My shirt is an LVC [Levi’s Vintage Clothing] sawtooth, which certainly brings that Brycelands/Ethan Newton vibe to mind.
The black fedora is the real star, a custom piece from Wellema Hat Co. It’s my second piece from him, commissioned at the beginning of the pandemic.
Angling a fedora is a tricky thing and I think it depends not only on the type of fedora, but the outfit you’re wearing. I like wearing my fedoras pointed forward with the brim snapped down when I’m wearing smarter looks; my brown Wellema is perfect for that.
However, putting that vibe on every outfit feels a bit too much like a Party City gangster, where cocking it back with the brim snapped up feels more western, which is in line with the vibes of this outfit (thanks to the denim shirt). I actually keep this black fedora snapped up for that reason, as that’s how I typically style it!
Outfit 6: Casual/tailoring crossover
“Another tonal look! The jacket is a linen ‘chore-blazer’ I got from a random shop during a family trip to Paris. The shirt is a very open, basket-weave style from the 1930s; it’s beat up, so it’s best worn ultra casually with a bit of slouch.
The wide-legged trousers I bought when I was at university, from an old Uniqlo U collection. They’re a light seersucker in a great shade of brown. The shoes are the Wallabees again and if you look closely, you’ll see that I’ve got on a thin 1960s horizontal striped tie as a belt!
An interesting point here is the parallels between tailoring and casual wear. At one point in my menswear journey, I was convinced that my casual style had to be different from my tailoring style; this is how I got into rugged Ivy, milsurp [military surplus] and workwear.
Over time however, I realised that my love of tailoring was really about certain details: soft shoulders, drooping lapels, wide hems, a high rise, and clean lines/drape. A lot of those can apply to casual clothing too.
That was particularly obvious when I worn period-accurate vintage, where sportswear (casual wear) was built on the ideas of tailoring. It was only natural for me to start incorporating them when I wasn’t ‘dressed up’, this time with even more references to milsurp and workwear.
It all points to what I think is the endgame of menswear: the ability to wear anything you want but still have a cohesive style.
Ethan M. Wong (instagram)
A Little Bit of Rest (blog)
Style & Direction (soundcloud)