It’s been a while since we reached out, after a stint of gathering 100,000 YouTube Subscribers on our English speaking channel (Sartorial Talks) and receiving our first YouTube Silver Creator award.
So back to to it! We cannot count the times you’ve asked: How can I embrace classic style when I don’t have the money to do so?
Who better to address the question than Jason Chang, a menswear writer we’ve followed since 2012. While he has made his name with the title “Broke and Bespoke”, his clothes include ready-to-wear, and mainly second hand made-to-measure and bespoke. Jason has agreed to talk about how he got started and proceeded to build a classic wardrobe with a limited bank account. It is our hope that you find inspiration in his words. Cheers ! Sonya & Hugo
By Jason Chang, Menswear Writer (Instagram @brokeandbespoke)
My name is Jason, and in my real life I’m a history teacher working in the SF Bay Area, which is also where I grew up. I first got into tailoring and menswear when I was a broke graduate student living just a block away from a huge, warehouse-sized Salvation Army thrift store. This was around 2004-5, and I was moving away from raw denim enthusiast communities on Superfuture and StyleForum towards the latter’s classical menswear conversations.
I was drawn to the more Ivy/trad-oriented threads on there both because that was what was most readily available thrifting in a college town, and because it was a nod to a bygone university culture whose aesthetics I found pleasing.
I remember well absorbing sage advice about Brooks Brothers and J. Press, how to look for the telltale signs of a canvassed sport coat, and the hallmarks of a Goodyear welted shoe, though I continue to be haunted by the fact that I probably left behind many great vintage ivy pieces by Jos A. Bank because of the ridicule and vitriol heaped upon the brand on internet fora.
In these early days I seldom donned tailored clothing outside my home, but I would certainly dress up while working on writing my dissertation. In fact, a midday outfit change was often my strategy for getting around a bad bout of writer’s block.
I gradually grew more comfortable wearing sport coats and ties, and slowly began to venture out in them more and more. This subtle transition, and the fact that I never had to wear tailored clothing in a professional setting, helped shape my slightly off-the-beaten-track approach to menswear which is to always keep an eye towards making tailored pieces look casual and comfortable. I believe Drake’s calls this “relaxed elegance”; for many years I almost exclusively paired tweeds and OCBDs with jeans, with either loafers or longwings on my feet.
Not long after I had moved back to the Bay Area, completed my doctorate, and taken a teaching position, I started a blog on tumblr on a whim (the archive is still online at brokeandbespoke.tumblr.com). This was in 2012 when #menswear blogging was really taking off on that platform, and I thought it was important for there to be voices in the blogosphere that highlighted ways that the classically-tailored looks that circulated online could be accessible at all price points.
To that end, I posted daily outfits listing what pieces I had thrifted and what price I paid for them--usually under $10 ! I was shocked by the wide appeal and fast growth of that blog, and I think it became useful to many folks who wanted to get the looks they saw online, but who didn’t have the money to shell out for bespoke, MTM, or even moderately priced retail.
While I don’t have time to thrift as often now, some of my favorite pieces remain ones I thrifted for $5-10. These days, I’m more likely to scour eBay for affordable vintage and contemporary pieces and have, over the years, amassed quite a collection of my favorite type of sport coat: vintage Brooks Brothers from the 60s-80s with lightly-padded natural shoulder construction, a 3 roll 2 lapel, two button cuff, a half-lining, swelled machine-stitched seams, and a center vent.
Nowadays, my wardrobe is a mix of vintage sport coats that were thrifted or eBayed, including:
* contemporary jackets from Spier and Mackay
* some MTO blazers/sport coats from brands I reviewed when I blogged on tumblr.
* shirts from Brooks Brothers and Luxire—one of their most popular collar designs is the “Broke and Bespoke” button down collar which came out of me trying to dial in a beautifully-rolling collar that hearkened back to the heyday of the Ivy style.
* pants from Luxire, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Spier and Mackay; mostly thrifted and eBayed ties in stripes, ancient madder, foulards and neats, grenadines
* silk knits from Brooks Brothers, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Lands’ End
* shoes from a variety of makers, though my favorites are probably Grant Stone, Alden, and Rancourt & Co.
I am thrilled that thrifting is enjoying such popularity these days since it is both environmentally sustainable, and a wonderful way to look great without having to break the bank. I hope my blog and IG feed have helped people see that wearing tailored clothing can be affordable, comfortable, and wearable across a host of different contexts.