John asked me a few questions for his blog, The Syllabus. Any excuse for a goofy photo is ok in my book.
10 QUESTIONS for : Zachary De Luca (the first in an occasional series)
Those of us addicted to Ivy League vintage clothing hold the name of Zachary de Luca in very high regard. For it is from his website NEWTON STREET VINTAGE that Zach offers those of us geographically cut off from the Ivy Mothership the finest selection of natural shoulder classics from the Golden Age. The selection is always spot on, the photographs precise and mouth watering, and the service impeccable. Zach also runs an accompanying blog THE SUIT ROOM . The Syllabus thought it’d be fun to get Zachary’s take on a number of the hot topics currently exercising those of us addicted to ‘The Ivy Look’.
1. How did you get the clothing bug?
I got the clothing bug in my late teens. My early heroes were young Bob Dylan and young Bruce Springsteen, and that was the sort of that I hunted for. Old Levis with the perfect contrast and fade, chambray, striped t-shirts. I wasn’t into the really old valuable 40s workwear (I have friends who are; an expensive habit) but was looking more for a certain look. I got into Ivy and American tailoring after being into vintage for a while. There was a store called Gumshoe in Jamaica Plain, MA that was open one day a week on Saturdays. The owner had a the walls of the store lined with shelves of vintage levis jeans and cords, literally stacked to the ceiling. I used to haunt that place. They also sold suits, and when the time came for me to buy a suit I bought my first vintage suit there. It was an Ivy suit but I didn’t know the terminology and details yet, all I knew was that when I put it on I didn’t look or feel anonymous or corporate.
2. Do you have a particular style icon?
I don’t really think I have any true icons. I think the usual suspects look great, of course, from Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart to Anthony Perkins, etc. I also think that Paul Newman had more style, raw talent, and acting ability than Steve McQueen, and I used to pause Torn Curtain and From the Terrace to look at the clothes. I also used to watch I Spy just for the clothes. By Season 2 Culp has gone pretty continental, but Cosby has great late-60s Ivy in the later seasons, wider paisley ties, double breasteds with soft shoulders, etc. Really though I get my fill walking around Cambridge/Boston. There are old guys here who have clearly been wearing this stuff forever, and their clothes have a great relaxed and slightly shabby quality. Nothing is high or tight. The beauty of this stuff is that you can go the high, tight and trim route when you’re young and get a bit loose and frayed when you’re older; you can grow and age into it. There are also guys around who go for a more all-out prep look, which is always fun to see. I wouldn’t call myself preppy, but I do wear Nantucket reds and the occasional bow tie. I saw an older guy on the bus wearing a rugby shirt the other day and he literally changed my opinion of rugby shirts. Everybody knows the great photo of David Hockney in a rugby shirt, but this guy was just an ordinary guy and he looked great! I think there is maturity in appreciating a look that someone else is clearly enjoying without trying to dissect it or emulate it. I say if you want to wear gray herringbone and blue oxford every day for the rest of your life, go nuts and enjoy yourself, and if you want to wear bow ties with madras and red pants, go nuts and enjoy yourself.
3. What is the favourite piece you’ve come across while thrifting?
This is a tough one. There are items that I value for their uniqueness, items that I value for their simplicity and versatility, and items that I value for the sheer serendipity and improbability that led to their discovery. I once found a deadstock 60s Gant Hugger chambray popover in a rack full of pajamas and surgical scrubs. That was a good day.
4. Of the great UK-USA-Italy traditional-menswear member states, which do you align yourself with most closely?
I’d have to say USA, if only because that is the one with which I am most familiar. I think these distinctions are slight and are exacerbated by the internet. I admire Italian take on things because there is such an emphasis on softness and tradition, but at the same time there is a playful disregard for rules. This is a horribly reductive statement based primarily on internet street style photos, of course. But I admire any style that says, “if you want to wear a double-breasted jacket with jeans and velvet slippers, go for it,” even if it is an internet fiction. I’ve been to Florence, Naples and Milan, and I didn’t see 24/7 Pitti Uomo style.
5. That portrait - what a great selling tool! Do tell the story behind it.
The portrait. We call him the Silver Fox. The artist, Dwight Shepler, is a know artist. He was local to Massachusetts, served in World War II with the Navy, and his paintings are primarily of battle action and naval vessels. I seem to have found the one portrait of a guy in a bow tie, also I’ve found on the internet several drawings of men in military uniforms. I don’t know the identity of the gentleman depicted. I found this at a local flea market, speaking of best thrifted items. I noticed the clothes first, of course, but if you look closer he has a very interesting and enigmatic expression. He looks like a stern, traditional guy but he is also smirking. My girlfriend and I had just moved into a new apartment, and the walls were bare. I had a separate bedroom set aside for use as a walk-in-closet and I thought the painting would look good in there. I hadn’t started the shop yet and hadn’t really considered selling clothes, I just wanted a room to fill up with vintage clothing and Danish modern furniture and I thought this painting would look right at home in there. It hangs above my credenza, and when I started the shop I found there was no way to photograph the tailor form without having the painting in the picture, so instead of moving it to another wall I just incorporated it into the photos. I am terrible at taking pictures.
6. Is there anything in the natural shoulder wardrobe you would never yourself consider wearing, and why?
I don’t like to say never, as my tastes do change, and I’ll take a piece of clothing for a spin around the block to see if I like the way I look and feel in it. That’s the beauty of second-hand, you can experiment with the clothes themselves, instead of trying to make a decision based on a website photo. I didn’t think I’d like tassel loafers until I found and pair and wore them to the corner store. Some people may want to whittle it down to basics and cultivate via exclusion, which is a perfectly acceptable approach, but wearing something new and slightly foreign is fun for me. That being said, I don’t think I’ll ever wear ecru shirts because they’re too close to my own skin tone, and I don’t really care for penny loafers, although I’d probably wear a pair of venetians if I could find a pair.
7. Ivy League clothing - who was/is the best maker and retailer? Can you offer us a precis of your take on this great American tradition?
Another tough question. Are we speaking of current retailers or in the past? In terms of vintage, I’d say it really depends on who you are and what you look for. For that narrow-lapel, high-fastening 60s look, you really can’t beat Cricketeer for tailored clothing. They nailed it. I find Normal Hilton from the same period to be a bit more timeless in terms of proportion, but all the details are still there. There are of course the storied old custom shops like Chipp and Arthur Rosenberg in NYC, but more often I find stuff from these smaller private shops like Arthur Johnson, Kennedy’s, and Marty Sullivan of Cape Cod that is just beautiful. Shops like these really used to play the field and sell the whole spectrum too. I’ve found the most austere gray suit you could imagine from Kennedy’s, but I’ve also seen some of the loudest patch madras from the same shop at the same time period. I think the Gant Hugger might be the closest to perfect that a shirt can be. In terms of current retailers I don’t buy very much new clothing, for obvious reasons, but for shirts I like the contemporary Brooks Brothers Black Fleece oxfords for the fit and the gussets. I also have a few contemporary Gant Rugger popovers in chambray that I like very much.
It’s very easy to say that they’re not what they used to be, but I admire J.Press for keeping it going. The reality in the shops is different from what’s on the website, and the stuff that you want to avoid is easily avoided while what you’re looking for is easily found. It’s not like they put all their gray and brown herringbone on the pyre in order to try new things.
8. Love the frames Zach - who’s the maker?
They’re contemporary Moscot, the frame is called the Lemtosh. If you’re looking for contemporary hornrims based on vintage, I would highly recommend either Moscot or Allyn Scura’s Legend.
9. Do you have a favourite blog or website you find yourself regularly checking out?
My guilty pleasure is the #menswear tumblr blogs. For me it is about looking at pictures, so I like tumblr. I read Giuseppe’s An Affordable Wardrobe regularly. The Italian Cut is a good one. Tailor Caid Days for Japanese Ivy inspiration.
10. Beyond the world of clothes what else fills your head?
I just recently left a stable job to do vintage, so clothing is filling my head right now whether I want it to or not! The pressure to keep finding things is constant, so I’m out looking all the time! I also have a gig in made-to-measure tailoring with a local shop, The Custom Fit in Boston, but I am still growing my small client base so that is another way in which clothing is occupying my mind.