January 2, 2014 by Ville Raivio
‘I’m 28 years old and an assistant dairy and frozen manager at a grocery store. I studied aeronautical science for one year at LeTourneau University, earning my private pilot’s license, and studied history at Northwestern Iowa College for the remaining three years, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in that field. Cassie and I married a year and a half ago. We currently don’t have any children other than our fur baby, Sir Kingsley. Vintage style actually played a role in Cassie and I coming together. We met at her place of work where, she admits, my vintage style drew her attention to me from the rest of the crowd. Before she even knew my name I was the “cool hat guy”. Cassie herself is a stylish woman who owns a classy wedding and boudoir photography business. She appreciates my style and that of her clients. Cassie supports my exploration of vintage style and has photographed me in vintage duds in the past.
My family was very supportive. My parents are collectors so our house was always full of antiques, vintage furniture, and historical pieces when I was a kid. It helped drive my interest in all things old. We would go out to antique shows and shops looking for the next neat thing and I have many fond memories of that. So not only were my parents supportive, they were the ones who introduced me to the world of vintage. I love to shoot firearms, whether vintage or new; collecting militaria, mainly American from the Second World War; hiking, fishing, and camping; reading; and playing airsoft. And history in general.
When I was young my parents would always make me dress my best, especially for church. That had a huge influence in the way I dress today. Also, family history is a factor. My great- great-grandfather owned a chain of four haberdasheries called J.C. Petersen & Co. in central Iowa and as a kid I always heard about him and his stores. It’s been a fun side hobby finding vintage pieces from his shops and knowing that my predecessor and his sons had sold those pieces. So maybe a love of quality clothing runs in the family.
Where I live vintage is pretty abundant and therefore cheap. I’m able to buy a high quality vintage sports coat for pennies on the dollar compared to a lesser quality modern equivalent. Not to mention I don’t find modern menswear to be all that high quality, especially when compared to vintage. Fabrics are thin, cheap, and don’t drape well. Most RTW suits are fused and not very well made. Modern aesthetics don’t appeal to me either.
When starting off in vintage, much of my knowledge came from other collectors in the field. While I know a lot about vintage style, there are other people in the field who know even more and are willing to share that knowledge. The internet has expended our ability to share info and has played an important part in my search for vintage knowledge. The website The Fedora Lounge was priceless when I first began.
Experience is perhaps the most important factor in obtaining knowledge. Being able to hold a hat from the 1930s, a ’50s tie, or wear a vintage belted back suit will teach you more than reading a description about those items. Because of this experience I’m now able to spot vintage pieces from across the room without even holding or examining them closely. I’m now able, like those experts who helped me, to enjoy sharing the knowledge I’ve gained with other beginners. We all start out in the same place, we might as well pass knowledge on to the next generation.
My dress reflects what I consider to be the best of the best of vintage style. By that I mean timeless: it looks great no matter what decade it’s worn. I don’t like my clothing to look like costume pieces and if I’m not careful it can easily look that way. There’s nothing wrong with wearing bold or in-your-face pieces of vintage, I love doing that, but the key is to wear them with restraint. And it also helps to wear it with confidence; if you’re going to wear vintage, you need to wear it and not let it wear you. That can be difficult to do which is why confidence is so important. Hence why, if something isn’t my style, doesn’t fit well or flatter my build, it goes away, quickly.
I don’t really have any favorite makers or tailors, I’m not a slave to a brand name or a flavor. I look for quality, of which there was plenty back in the day. I do like a brand called FashionPark, their suits seemed to have been a notch higher than most RTW vintage pieces I find. I got married in a FashionPark suit. Unfortunately, like so many good brands, FashionPark seems to have disappeared in the 1960s or ’70s.
I enjoy all of the decades from the 1920s – 1960s, but the late 1920s through the early 1940s is my favorite period. I prefer this period because the clothing, especially the suits, were all very flattering for the male figure, even for larger men. It was the dawn of the drape suit, with shapely shoulders, bold chest, and nipped waist. A very athletic look that we so often see on our favorite actors of yesteryear: Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart. The proportions were just right. And then in the mid-1940s the style ‘evolved’, things got exaggerated and the proportions changed for the worse in my opinion.
But the 1920s and 1930s was such a time for experimentation in men’s style and the bedrock upon which today’s fashion is built. Look at the major fashions of today and they can, through one way or another, be traced back to the Golden Era. Belted backs, Oxford Bags, drape suits, crazy Deco ties, classic fedoras – all decades since have looked back to the Golden Era for inspiration. The mid-1960s looked back at the 1920s, the early 1970s had a similar spirit as the late ’20s-early ’30s (while mutilating some of the styles), the 1980s revived portions of the 1950s. And today we take from all of those periods and tweak to our liking. Modern style truly is a cycle that started during the Golden Era.
I’m inspired by a well-proportioned drape suit, the sound of a World War Two fighter, a beautiful sunset while grilling or fishing on the lake, the mirror blued finish of my 1970s Hi-Power handgun, my wife, and my relationship with Jesus Christ.
My style definition is dressing elegantly and having the natural sense to dress well. Many men today, especially in the fashion centers around the world, wear fashionable clothing that is meant to shock or stun the viewer. And most importantly, modern fashions do not flatter the natural shape the male figure but rather feminizes it. I’ll probably take a lot of flak for that. My view of style is that of the elegant man: he’s masculine yet understands the finer points of dressing elegantly. Elegance is what separates the stylish man from the fashionable man or just the everyday man. Masculinity doesn’t have to be super trendy and hip or gruff, macho, and obscene. It can be respectful, reserved, and sexy all at the same time.
Something that is stylish looks great no matter what decade it is. Human perception of proportions and the Golden Ratio doesn’t change over time and the male figure has basically remained the same over the years. Therefore, a piece of menswear that is considered stylish and classic yesteryear should still be stylish today. A classic suit, hat, or pair of shoes will always be stylish because they will always look right if worn well.
The Houndstooth Kid Haberdashery was founded two years ago in December, 2011. I’d been selling on another more obscure site for several years before deciding to move to a wider audience. There’s quite a selection for sale, everything from the 1920s through to the 1960s at a myriad of price ranges. From casual and western to workwear and formal dress, it has all kinds of variety. I like to sell quality vintage items, no junk, and at prices that are fair to both parties.
Just as I’m an experienced vintage collector, I’m also an experienced and trusted seller. In the past I’ve done business with Sony Picture Studios and multiple big name performance theaters along with dozens of other collectors around the would. Shop selection is very good and my prices tend to be more affordable than other sellers. I was able to confirm this when I visited New York City earlier this year, where vintage has been gobbled up by collectors and sellers alike, making prices too high for many to afford. However, where I live vintage is still very much available and, thanks to a lack of collectors, relatively cheap. That lets me pass the low prices onto the buyer, even when the piece is a so-called ‘holy grail’.
Not to mention I treat every buyer or potential buyer fairly and help them in any way I can. I want every collector to have a great experience with my shop and to help build their collection from scratch, just like I had to.
Study the so-called-rules of style, learn how to use them, and then learn how to bend and break them well. Look to the stylish men of the Golden Era for inspiration and try new things.
When you put together a new kit examine it long and hard in the mirror. If it looks right then wear it in public with confidence but if it doesn’t look right to you either fix it or ditch it. Sometimes what you might think is the oddest combination of pieces will actually look great in the mirror.
Everyone makes mistakes. The key to this is to learn from your mistakes. Cary Grant didn’t always get it right and neither will you. But whatever you do, always be confident in your choice. When trying new things you may unwittingly leave the house looking like a Christmas fruit cake, garnering all kinds of stares and derision. However, when this happens, you need to at least be a confident Christmas fruit cake, for there is nothing so pathetic as a downtrodden, slump-shouldered Christmas fruit cake. Then learn from your mistake.‘
Photos: Eric Yerke and Cassie Moul