3.16.2011

Sartorial Satisfaction in Vermont

It's easy to become complacent about style in Vermont - the winter weather is extreme, and it sometimes forces one to wear more utilitarian, comfortable, "sensible" clothes. And when everyone else around you is dressed so casually, it's tempting to get complacent yourself, and easy to wonder why you should bother when nobody else does. But gents, I submit, this is no time for complacency. 

Following up on Jen's fashion post from a couple of days ago, I figured I'd mention some of the options for men looking for some mod styles in the Burlington, Vermont area. Indeed, there are a few gems to be found - from traditional men's shops that understand what a mod cut means, to chain shops that carry Fred Perry accessories.

One great shop in Burlington is called Michael Kehoe Ltd. This men's shop has been in business since 1977 and specializes in custom clothing. This past Christmas, Jen bought me a gift certificate at Michael Kehoe for a custom dress shirt.

Excited at the prospect of owning my first made-to-measure garment, I went in to choose the fabric and for a fitting. When you order a custom shirt, the minimum order is actually two shirts, but they can be of different patterns and have different options. Michael Kehoe works with two shirtmakers and the price can vary greatly depending on which line you go with. The more expensive line runs about $200 to $250 per shirt, and that was well out of my budget even with the gift certificate in hand. The less expensive line runs about $100 to $160 per shirt. There are hundreds of patterns and fabrics to choose from, and the sheer number of options - from pattern, to collar, to cuffs, to the type of pocket - made decision making daunting.

The person who measured me and took me through the process was Tom, and he was extremely helpful and informative. He took a dozen or so measurements, and even asked if I wore a wristwatch so the measurement on that wrist could be taken in to account for the cuff size. One arm slightly longer than the other? No problem - they check for that and take it into account. I told Tom that I tended to favor more of a 1960s/"mod" style and he understood right away, and helped me zero in on the collar and cuff styles that fit that look.

For shirt number one I opted for a classic blue gingham pattern, with a button down collar and double-button cuffs. I envisioned this shirt getting a bit more wear on a regular basis. It can be worn with jeans, or under a sweater or suit with a tie. The gingham pattern is a true classic that was favored by the mods and original skinheads (as in, the offshoot from the original mods, not the 1990s-beat-up-Geraldo right-wing kind)  in 1960s England, and is one of my favorites today.




For shirt number two, I figured I'd go with something a little more dressy; a shirt that I would only wear with a suit and tie. I also figured I'd go with a pattern that was a bit more out of the box, and unlike anything I'd ever owned before or had seen in shops previously. I opted for a more classic, dressy, point collar; and French cuffs.


About four weeks later, I got a call that the shirts came in. Trying them on back at home, I immediately thought, "I can never buy another dress shirt off-the-peg again." They fit absolutely perfectly. The shoulders hit where they were meant to, and unlike most of my long sleeve shirts, the sleeves and cuffs were the perfect length and fit.



Being that your average dress shirt costs about $80 - $90, the extra cost of having one (or two) made to measure is well worth it. I ended up paying about $125 per shirt, and the quality and fit are fantastic. I highly recommend checking out Michael Kehoe Ltd. in Burlington, or visiting your local men's shop and looking into custom shirts.

In April, I'll be visiting my friend Patrick up in Montreal, where he will introduce me to his traveling tailor who will be in town for a day taking measurements and orders, and I'll start the process of getting a made-to-measure mod suit at a great price. You can read all about Patrick's experience having a suit made the last time his tailor came through Montreal, over on his great blog, Parka Avenue.

Other recommendations for shopping in Vermont:
  • Salaam on Church Street in Burlington is a fairly new shop with mostly women's clothes but has a respectable men's section, part of it devoted to Ben Sherman - another mod favorite. They have a fair selection of Ben Sherman shirts, jackets, trousers, and shorts. 
  • I wish I could mention more non-chain shops but they are few and far between. I have gotten pretty lucky in Burlington's local Urban Outfitters. In the past year, I've added to my collection of hats with several $15 sale purchases, including one stingy brim fedora. They're not the greatest quality hat, but for $15 they're quite acceptable. And for some reason - even though I've never seen them on the floor for sale at regular price - they frequently have Fred Perry bags on offer in their hit-or-miss sale section. I've picked up a Fred Perry flight bag, that normally goes for about $75 online, for just $10; and a few weeks ago I scoped out a really cool carryall/overnight FP bag for $40 (normally $80). 

    Given that we're still fairly new to Vermont, I welcome any other reader suggestions about where to find mod/retro styles - online, or here in the Green Mountain State - comment away!

    2 comments:

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