In the same way that our online personas are rarely identical to the way we live “IRL”, I have found that stores usually offer very different experiences between their online presence and physical locations. On the one hand, there are great stores that have existed for decades and are just now beginning to realize the power of e-commerce. On the other, you have stores that dominate the internet but have a physical presence that doesn’t do the product justice. There are many degrees of this, but one thing is consistent: a store may have a great web presence or a great physical presence, but it is very rare to have both.
The Armoury seems to be the exception to this rule, as their new store in New York is a flawless extension of the brand’s powerful presence abroad and online.
A few months ago I was having a chat with my friend Jacob about how the idea of “American made” items is often over-romanticized. I told him that I certainly have a tendency to do this; when I hear the phrase “Made in the USA” I like to picture a wood-floored workshop filled with well-worn tools and with ceiling-high windows that fill the dusty air with afternoon sun. In that room, a skilled craftsman with graying hair and a smudged pair of glasses holds his work up to the light, his calloused fingers wiping away sawdust and checking for imperfections (and, of course, finding none). He then nods contentedly, eyes twinkling, and places the item in a box with my address on it before moving on to his next project.
Of course, this image in my mind isn’t really what most American manufacturing looks like. Unless you’re at Frank Clegg’s workshop, in which case it’s exactly what it looks like.
When I visited New York last year I had the opportunity to meet many of the great people behind some of my favorite companies. One such person is Greg Lellouche, who founded No Man Walks Alone last year. Like I said then, Greg and his team have done a great job of finding wonderful items across a broad spectrum of styles; the garments vary significantly throughout the store, but the level of quality is high throughout.
During my most recent trip East I had the opportunity to stop by the No Man Walks Alone HQ and meet up with Kyle, who runs the day-to-day operations of the store along with Greg. I was able to take a look at some of their core products that I’d only seen online and peek at some new items headed to the website in the next couple of weeks. Just like before, I found the items to be exceptional across the board, both in quality and level of design.
Most of the questions my fellow bloggers and I seem to receive are inquiries for local information - the best stores, best tailors, and so on. These are reasonable questions, to be sure, but it can be difficult to answer them all. For that reason, I’ve compiled this super cool interactive map that should help everyone out, whether you’re just in town for the afternoon or you’re a seasoned local looking for a new place to get a haircut.
I will do my best to keep this map updated and accurate, but understand that stores open, close, and move all the time. And although I’ve tried to be as thorough as possible, I have undoubtedly missed places worth mentioning. For that reason, I encourage everyone to add their suggestions, additions, and corrections in the comments below.
Anyway, here it is (if you’re reading this on tumblr, you’ll have to click the little gray box to see the map; if you’re on tumblr mobile, you’re probably out of luck). There’s a lot of information crammed in this map, so hit the “full screen” icon on the top right to be taken to the original size.
The map is divided into three layers - clothing and accessories, barbers, and alteration tailors. I included websites, addresses and a brief description of the establishment in each pin. There’s a lot of information to digest, so I’ve copied it all below as well.
There are quite a few clothing stores in downtown San Francisco. Some are common and approachable, like Uniqlo and Macy’s, while others like Nieman Marcus and Wilkes Bashford are only for the true ballers among us. Of course, it should come as no surprise that my favorite store is neither of these things - it is small, unassuming, and focused on doing just one thing but doing it well. It’s something surprisingly unique to the Bay Area, too - the Alden Shop of San Francisco.
I know what you’re thinking: “I thought Alden was a Massachusetts brand! It says ‘New England’ right there in the photo!” Well, you’re not wrong, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Alden shoes are indeed made in New England, and they’re sold at high-end retailers all over the world. What makes the San Francisco shop unique is that it is one of only two stores that is directly affiliated with the factory (the other one is in Washington, D.C.). For that reason, it is the biggest - and best - collection of Alden shoes anywhere.
I’ve never been a cologne guy. It sounds ok in concept, but I’m a bit afraid; it seems so much easier to use it incorrectly than it does to achieve the desired effect. After all, I have met plenty of guys that have bad reputations because of poor cologne usage, but never someone who had a good cologne reputation (if there is such a thing - I guess that’s the sign of using it well).
Don’t get me wrong; I still love nice smells, and I like the idea of wearing a light fragrance. Cologne just didn’t seem to have a good risk/reward ratio to me, so I never bothered.
That changed quickly when I met the folks at Juniper Ridge.
In an airy suite on the 16th floor of the Mark Hopkins hotel, a few hundred fabric samples littered a small table. There was no fanfare, no media release, no press party with free booze to celebrate the arrival of these fabric swatches. Unlike the noise that seems to accompany traveling made-to-measure tailors, Edwin and Matthew DeBoise of Steed visited San Francisco with a bit more subtlety. These bespoke tailors already had plenty of fittings scheduled for their two-day visit, so there was no need to make any more of it.
When I saw that Steed tailors were visiting San Francisco I sheepishly sent them an email, asking if I could stop in and learn more about what they do (even though I have no ability to commission something). Matthew was kind enough to accept, so on Monday I headed over to have my first face-to-face meeting with a bespoke tailor.
In the past I have mentioned that I grew up in a small town in Oregon’s Willamette Valley; this is an area of the country where understanding the finer points of style is not a priority for most men. Be that as it may, I would be lying through my teeth if I said that I was the only style-oriented young man to come out of the area in recent years. One of my well-dressed high school friends is Peter Lee, and a few years ago he turned his interests in clothing into a legitimate business - Harding & Wilson.
Out & About: Tanner Goods Flagship Store - 1308 W. Burnside, Portland, OR
During my most recent trip to my home state I went in to Portland to visit some menswear companies that are distinctly “Pacific Northwest” - the area has a unique aesthetic, and Tanner Goods captures that as well as anyone else. While I was at the store I was able to chat with Colton Tong, manager of the Portland flagship, and learn a bit more about the brand.
In a brief moment of serendipity last month, I happened to come across the Proper Cloth headquarters by pure accident; they were located right next to the Meermin trunk show and I stumbled in by chance on my way out. Needless to say, I took full advantage of the opportunity and had a quick look around.