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.
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