• Wooden Sleepers

    Top Drawer | Store Profiles | Prep Essentials  

    The Red Hook neighborhood, sitting on the eastern edge of the East River, feels like a beach town that wakes up on sunny summer weekends. Every shop is locally owned, lobster rolls from Red Hook Lobster Pound are right down the street, and hole in the wall bars dot Van Brunt Street. The neighborhood is a sort of destination. Add “obsessively curated vintage men’s shop” to that lineup and a weekend in Red Hook becomes a New York summer must. Brian Davis recently set up shop to house his vintage clothing collection compulsion under the moniker Wooden Sleepers.

    The name was a gift. Its provenance can be traced back to Davis' then girlfriend/now wife. The two met while both playing shows in the Long Island punk/indie scene (he currently plays drums in two different bands). "We’re always coming up with names for things," Davis jokes. This mutual affinity often leads to them playing a game in which they brainstorm names for would-be bands, restaurants, and concepts...just for kicks. Former names include, but are not limited to, Wolf Pit, Eternal Pleasure, and Cultural Anthropology. Interesting way to the pass time—try it with your significant other and see how long it takes before they physically remove themselves from your personal space. Wait—they're still around? Congratulations, you found someone who's interesting and weird—lock that down! Ok, sorry for the tangent.

    Wooden Sleepers was born out of one of these sessions. It's slang for a railroad tie, the rectangular wooden support for the rails in railroad tracks. Growing up on a peninsula in the Peconic Bay called Nassau Point, in the town of Cutchogue, it resonated with Davis. He and his buddies would often walk the lone railroad track as a shortcut to the next town...like a scene out of Stand by Me, but with less train-dodging and leeches.

    From the moment I walk in (first of all, the window displays are reminiscent of Boy’s Life back issues), I'm taken aback. I’m excited…surprised. I'm a tornado of emotions. What I'm looking at is that good. I want to buy everything (a blatant tell of a rich product offering and even better merchandising). During my time at Rugby, I'm not sure we did it better at our haberdashery shop on Bleecker Street. Davis’ merchandising is on that level. What required a team of five Ralph Lauren visual merchandisers, Davis has done with a team of one. Him.

    Right now, the shop feels like the best summer ever. Vintage short sleeve oxfords from Brook Brothers and Gant hang in a dusty pastel palette, a ROY G BIV gradient of meticulously curated tees and sweatshirts beg to be thumbed through, and 50 shades of blue denim trucker jackets by Polo Country, Lee, and Levi's hang on nonagenarian rounders Davis laboriously acquired. Remember those mobiles that would twirl above your crib and play nursery rhymes as a baby (trick question!—technically you can’t since we all have what Freud first called "childhood amnesia”)? That’s happening in another corner of the shop but with M65 field jackets and early Beach Boys (pre-Pet Sounds). A feast of wingtips, loafers, and bluchers line the center table, sun-faded maritime signal flags hang haphazardly, and a patchwork of threadbare rugs pulled from dissolved New England estates blanket the floor. The whole boutique is essentially a 500 square foot impassioned homage to the tip of Nassau Point.

    While Davis’ passion is certainly vintage menswear, he’s intentionally picked his spots to carry new goods. “I wanted to focus on an array of vintage military chinos but offer new quality denim for those guys in the neighborhood.” So he carries a modest selection of 3sixteen raw selvedge (New York) as well as a small leather goods collaboration with Louise Goods (Brooklyn), and necklaces in sterling silver and brass designed by his wife (Brooklyn). While new, all of these items are designed to age with you, eventually developing the same patina you find in his vintage offerings.

    Sure, the Red Hook neighborhood is a destination—at least you don’t have to dodge any trains to shop a slice of quintessential New England at its best. Just remember to grab a lobster roll before you drop by the shop, you’ll be there awhile.

    Jun 23, 2015 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • CW Pencil Enterprise

    Top Drawer | Store Profiles  

    “The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser—in case you thought optimism was dead.”
    —Robert Brault

    Caroline Weaver's favorite pencil is a 1950s Eagle Black Warrior. More my words than hers, she technically doesn’t have a favorite, but it’s the pencil she’d resurrect in The World According to Caroline Weaver. It’s a writer’s pencil…the pencil writers put in the hands of their characters who are writers. She has one left. But she's not sweating it.

    Since she opened CW Pencil Enterprise in March, a Lower East Side reliquary of wood and graphite, Ms. Weaver has developed a knack for mining large veins of vintage (1980s and older) and discontinued pencils. Aging collectors and enthusiasts (mostly men) have been ringing her up, looking to hand down their expansive personal collections to a steward worthy and just as zealous about the preaching the pencil gospel as they are.

    Aside from the collectible and rare, the shop has something for everyone. Neighborhood school girls with discerning taste pop by for supplies, curious passersby wander in off Forsyth street, and nostalgic thirty-somethings wonder at no. 2 pencils, sharpeners, and erasers. I enthusiastically discover an Emilia Braga composition book that immediately transports me back to high school chemistry. Founded in 1818, these iconic Portuguese notebooks have remained largely the same for nearly a century. It’s $26. A tiny 3 1/2” pencil that looks exactly like a cigarette (the 12 year-old boy inside me instantly wants a dozen), $1. A vintage 1960s Eberhard Faber Pink Pearl eraser, $2. The most popular pencil in the shop? The Blackwing 602, which counts John Steinbeck, Vladimir Nabokov, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, and Truman Capote amongst its myriad of devotees, will set you back $50…or $2 for the current reproduction.

    Not simply an aesthete, Ms. Weaver is a monomaniac—an appellation she proudly wears on her sleeve, literally. A black Dixon Ticonderoga® sharpened three times, drawn to scale by her mother, graces the inside of her left forearm. On her tiny frame, it’s imposing. And it starts as many conversations about pencils as you think it would.

    Her mom was a messy designer whose work flooded every corner of the house. Growing up, pencils were everywhere…beautiful, gorgeous pencils. When her mother would travel, she’d bring Weaver back really nice ones. The most prized possession being a set of Caran d’Ache colored pencils in a little tin from a trip to Italy. Weaver still has them at home, barely used.

    “I like things that have a story,” Weaver says. “I just…I just like beautiful things.” Pencil in a visit. The middle schooler in you will be glad you did.

    CW Pencil Enterprise
    100a Forsyth Street
    New York, NY 10002

    May 25, 2015 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • The Best Men’s Store in America

    Store Profiles  

    It's almost four o'clock on a Monday as my driver (yes, you too can have a driver too via UberX) pulls off Howell Mill Road on the west side of Atlanta. For those familiar, you know I'm pulling up to Sid Mashburn. It's been almost three years since I was last in...five since I profiled his then two year-old shop here on Unabashedly Prep. While the shop has waxed cooler with the addition of a giraffe procured from a Parisian flea market and a shoe room straight out of the pages of Fitzgerald's Gatsby, whispers had been swirling that the southern hospitality had supposedly begun to wane.

    If you don't walk in in the "uniform"—four-in-hand knot askew, natural shoulder jacket, and Chelsea boots (a recent affinity)—I could see it. While this has never been my experience, I could see it. The uniform portrays a certain type of club, the cult of Sid. The thing is, it's a really great club to be a part of...a master class on how to dress like a grown-up. Esquire recently crowned Sid Mashburn the best menswear shop in America, a coronation few would dispute. But what of putting gentlemen at ease? That's where Curt Benham comes in. He's been tasked with essentially making guys feel really welcome. As Curt walks me through the finer points of their new sack jacket (my bourbon of choice in hand, naturally), it's definitely working.

    Sep 24, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • Second Time Around

    Store Profiles  

    by Moses Y. Bension

    When you were in prep school you probably wore a Barbour or Bean sweater that wasn’t exactly new when you got it, especially if you were the youngest brother or sister in your family to attend said school (unless you had a university named after your great-great-great-great-grandfather). We’ve always borrowed (or stolen) clothes out of each others’ closets, so it’s about time there was an upscale thrift shop consignment shop that facilitated the tradition of that exchange.

    Second Time Around is that consignment shop. Since 1973, it has expanded from its little shop on Newbury Street in Boston to over 40 boutiques. It’s now known up and down the East Coast as the place to shop great second hand. Check out the women's "preppy" section at their Madison Avenue boutique. Brooks Brothers fleece blazers that still have the tags on them sit next to J. Crew cashmere sweaters in just as new condition...all for less than half of retail. How else are you going to get a hold of vintage Hermès? After all, new money is a concept that is relatively…well…new.

    Aug 30, 2013 | Permalink (5) View/Leave Comments

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    Kathryn left a comment on 10/5/2013 at 1:23 PM:

    Thanks for sharing!  My special hand-me-downs define my style so much that I started a blog about them.  This sounds like a store I would love, and I’ll plan to visit when I’m in New York in a few weeks.


  • J. Press York St.

    Store Profiles  

    by Tucker Chet Markus

    One-hundred-and-ten years of fathers and sons built this place: 304 Bleecker Street, New York, New York.

    In 1902, Jacobi Press, a Latvian immigrant, opened his first store on a quiet New Haven street corner and he called it J. Press. In 2010, brothers Shimon and Ariel Ovadia, New York City born and bred, started their own line of menswear—Ovadia & Sons. Now, 304 Bleecker is home to J. Press York Street—a menswear line designed for J. Press by the Ovadia twins, opened last year.

    As J. Press York Street’s flagship store, this location embodies not just the character of the pieces that clothe the store, but the ineffable magic of a marriage between old and new. Yellowing photographs of Yale alums, busts, and letters written between freshman-year sweethearts are flanked by neon lights, color-block rugs, all housed in straight lines and sleek architecture.

    The ethos reflects a bond forged between the traditional and the progressive. Suits in classic patterns with modern cuts, repp ties sitting on brightly colored oxfords—a line that maintains the soul of what has made J. Press an icon of American menswear while introducing it to a new generation of gentlemen.

    York Street is defined by heritage—and new traditions that arise and become part of a legacy they once challenged. Like a son emerging from his father’s shadow—different, and yet, unmistakably the same.

    The tile mason laid out the design of the bulldog entirely freehand.

    The J. Press Honor Roll recognizing the employees who left to serve in the military. Notice Elliot Gant's name, fourth from the bottom. He eventually left the Navy in 1947 to join his brother Marty Gant in the family shirt-making business. This honor roll was pulled from the New Haven location's basement.

    What guy doesn't love a hidden bookcase door?

    Aug 19, 2013 | Permalink (11) View/Leave Comments

    Paul left a comment on 10/20/2013 at 3:05 PM:

    I was in New Haven two weeks ago and found that the fountainhead store on York Street is being torn down and then rebuilt.  The store was in temporary lodges on Chapel Street, but also needs to move again as their present location is pushing them out.  So now they are moving to second temporary location on College Street across from the Shubert Theater.  Feel bad about he old building coming down - generations of Dads and Sons were advised and bought in that wonderful old sartorial house.

    A Boston Blazer left a comment on 9/26/2013 at 8:14 PM:

    Nice to see these guys filling the vacuum that Rugby left. Brooks Brothers has a more youthful line in the save vein I believe. New England prep lives on!


    Michael left a comment on 9/26/2013 at 7:39 AM:

    @Fred….nice photos!

    Leith left a comment on 9/25/2013 at 2:15 PM:

    Wow.  Now that is true, unadulterated prep.  So rare these days.  I love it and I can’t wear anything in there.  Maybe I can pull off the sunglasses? - Leith

    Jack left a comment on 9/24/2013 at 9:33 PM:

    Fred, thanks for your reply. I noticed on one of your previous posts you had a jacket with a Rhone patch on it, and was curious, since Paris is not technically in that region.


    PSP left a comment on 9/24/2013 at 9:10 PM:

    F.E. I’am not so sure about this place. I have not been there yet but viewing their catalog they seem to be a B version of Rugby.  On a separate note, I was sorry to see that the Rugby Cafe closed in G town.  I was told it would remain opened.

    Lauren left a comment on 9/24/2013 at 8:57 PM:

    This looks like an amazing store! I love the back story!


    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 9/24/2013 at 7:04 PM:

    @Jack—Yes, Paris.

    Jack left a comment on 9/24/2013 at 6:55 PM:

    Fred—just out of curiosity, have you ever been to France?

    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 9/24/2013 at 6:32 PM:

    @Mike—The Shaggy Dogs fit much better.

    Mike left a comment on 9/24/2013 at 6:17 PM:

    While we have all known about York St. for some time, I appreciate this look at it. I don’t live in the North East, so photos are welcome.

    As per the brand, I am interested in their Shaggy Dog sweaters and how they compare to those of traditional J. Press.


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