The Teenage Gentleman feat. Ethan Wong

May 8th, 2015

Ethan Wong (aka the teenage gentleman) is a blast from the past. The nineteen year old accounting student (who is about to graduate from college two years early) has a burning passion for menswear from the 1920s-1950 and wears head-to-toe vintage down to the most accurately researched detail.

“Although I do experiment with more modern menswear, I would say my favorite style is one of a typical man (not necessarily a Hollywood actor or anything) from the 1930s-1940s. It’s very dapper and stylish, but nothing too crazy.

So how does a nineteen year old student get into 1930’s period tailoring? As his inspirations he names a number of early experiences including dressing up for church, watching old Looney Tunes cartoons, and joining a Facebook group comprised of die-hard vintage enthusiasts, traders, and dealers operating throughout Southern California.

Here Ethan shows us some of his favorite vintage finds and shares with us how he got into accurately wearing menswear from almost a hundred years ago.

    Spring 1930s

    mensstyleethan (1 of 32)

    “As a Christian, dressing up was second nature to my family; it was necessary to wear a suit to church. I think I really fell in love with classic menswear from watching old cartoons. I remember seeing those old Looney Tunes films with gangsters wearing double-breasted suits and fedoras… Then I started getting into old films like Casablanca and Shirley temple films…. Even the way they talked, the extinct Trans-Atlantic accent used by newsreporters and actors – it was like music to my ears. 

    For a while I tried my hardest to emulate the look, but to no avail. I tried using modern tailored clothes to emulate the vintage styles, but something was wrong; it didn’t feel accurate. Modern clothes just didn’t give me the look I wanted. It wasn’t until I attended “Dapper Day” at Disney Land that I was introduced to this whole new world of vintage enthusiasts. I met a men wearing a gorgeous double-breasted windowpane suit. I figured it was custom made, but he told me it was a 1940’s suit that he bought at a thrift store! As I got to know him better, he revealed to me that there was a whole community in Southern California that is dedicated to all things vintage. 

    Soon I immersed myself within the community, meeting many people who wore true vintage items almost everyday. Asa a new member of the group, and the youngest, I strived to learn as much as I could [Ethan has always been a 4.0 student, hence why he’s graduating college at the age of 19]. I studied closely what made the look of each era accurate. The early 20’s is very sleek and slim, the 30’s has wider legs and tapered jackets, and the 40s-50s got more pleats, more fullness, and a much larger gorge.”

    mensstyleethan (4 of 32)

    “Here I’m wearing a vintage off-white linen jacket with a bi-swing, belted back from the 1930s. This design offers a great deal of flexibility and mobility…you can swing dance in it, or even comfortably swing a golf club. The shirt is a light peach spearpoint (the long Goodfellas collar) – it’s from the 70’s but it can pass. The trousers are from a 1940’s navy suit. Sunglasses are 1940’s and the shoes are 1980’s Stacy Adam spectators. (Good quality 1930s-40s shoes are hard to come by and my 1930’s spectators aren’t in the best condition).”

    mensstyleethan (5 of 32)

    mensstyleethan (8 of 32)

    mensstyleethan (6 of 32)

    • Panama hat Vintage
    • Off-white linen jacket Vintage
    • Spearpoint shirt Vintage
    • Navy trousers Vintage
    • Braces Vintage
    • Spectator shoes Vintage

    Summer 1920s

    mensstyleethan (12 of 32)

    “To find vintage, I mainly stick to purchasing within the community.  Many of these sellers go on purchasing trips throughout the United States, attend estate sales, or simply get lucky at thrift stores and resell things that don’t fit them to the members of the community first before throwing them up on eBay (another great place to search for vintage).  There are different community meet-ups where a few vendors will attend to sell and trade pieces from their personal collections.  Two guys in the community even went to an auction where all the pieces were from the archives of golden-age movie studios!  I have one jacket from the 1940’s that has a Paramount Studios label on it.

    Most of my vintage stuff is all different sizes (according to the labels). I usually disregard the tag size and try it on, knowing that it will probably have to be tailored. Because fit is so important to pulling off the vintage look, almost everything I have is tailored after I buy it.  I’ve had to sacrifice many cuffs from the pants because they were too short…”

    mensstyleethan (14 of 32)

    “The purple herringbone wool jackt is from the 1920’s (which you can tell from the upturned peak lapels, but also more so from the internal labeling). The contrast collar shirt is actually a more modern piece by Ralph Lauren.  The cream flannel trousers and vintage captoe shoes are from the 1940’s. The Palm Beach fabric striped tie is a 1930s pieces, and I’m not quite sure the era of the vintage boater (I have been told it is from the 1950s, as many 1920’s boaters have not survived or are extremely expensive).”

    mensstyleethan (11 of 32)mensstyleethan (15 of 32)mensstyleethan (16 of 32)mensstyleethan (13 of 32)mensstyleethan (18 of 32)

    • Straw Boater hat Vintage
    • Purple herringbone jacket Vintage
    • Club collar shirt by Ralph Lauren
    • Cream flannel trousers Vintage
    • Black captoe shoes Vintage

    1930s Conservative

    mensstyleethan (25 of 32)

    As Ethan was explaining to Alex and I, it’s nearly impossible to find pre-worn vintage items in perfect condition – but that doesn’t bother him. For many vintage collectors and period dressers like Ethan, fit and historical accuracy are much more important than pristine condition. A little stain here or there, or even a minimal tear, only adds to the mystery and character of the clothes.

    “I also find the cut of vintage trousers to be more flattering for me body type [Ethan is about 5’8″, 160 lbs]. High-waisted trousers really accentuate and lengthen the legs. When combined with a light break, it can give you a whole new silhouette and physique. Additionally, I find that suspenders look a little ‘too stretched out’ when worn with modern low-rise pants.”

    mensstyleethan (27 of 32)

    “Here I’m wearing a British double-breasted summer suit from the 1930’s. It’s a children’s suit (or “teenager’s suit” as it reads on the label), which has been one of my secrets. Clothes cut for younger people from past eras are usually cheaper and the cuts are usually more appropriate for my size. This jacket also has a belted and vented back – one of those rare functional details that you don’t see often on modern jackets because of its difficulty to properly manufacture.”

    mensstyleethan (30 of 32)mensstyleethan (28 of 32)mensstyleethan (29 of 32)

    Thanks, as always, for reading and special thanks to Ethan for participating!

    Yours in style,

    Dan Trepanier

    Shop Custom Menswear Made in America


    Take me to the Shop

    • Luke

      I love how this is possible on a budget,I am in high school,and me and my friend are the only ones who dress like gentlemen.

    • AdamE

      The hats, and the overall strict adherence to an era, can give off the costumey vibe, but I’d rather be slightly costumey and well dressed, than a slob… And I can guarantee if you split up some of these pieces and paired them with one or two modern elements, it would just look killer…

      That said, he nails the looks, and the clothes, while very era appropriate are worn in a way that flatter his body and suit him well. I also admire the dedication and get the thrill of the hunt (back in my DJing days, I remember hunting for certain tracks on vinyl and scouring shop lists and eBay from around the world to track down a record…), since it takes commitment to stick to your guns on something like this (it’s like growing a mullet… if a woman is tired of guys afraid of commitment, she should date a guy with a mullet, that can take some serious dedication to produce…)…

      My personal commitment is to find things that look good on me and with the stuff that I own, and I build my personal look from there (building my look from a wardrobe, instead of building a wardrobe to a look, not to say one is inherently better or worse, just how I’m comfortable dressing, because I can say with certainty I wouldn’t have the balls to dig into a period look and rock it day to day…),

    • Unseen Flirtations

      The most refreshing aspect of this profile is in how Ethan has found a style to flatter his body shape, out of historical fashion. I disagree with the comments suggesting that this is merely ‘costume’ – you can see how empowered he is by his discovery of classic style.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Jeffrey Frank

      In my opinion the hats (which I love by the way) are what send each outfit over the edge into the realm of costume. Look at each picture again, imagined without the lid, and Mr. Wong does not at all seem far off from what a stylish guy today would look like.

    • Juan Zara

      Very jealous! Some of the pieces pictured here are just plain extraordinary, not to mention in really great condition to be 40 to 80 years old! Wish we had a vintage clothing community here in Milan, or even just decent thrift shops, but this city is too much about fashion to care about proper clothes.

      I agree some of it looks costume-y, but it’s just about the proportions. Apart from the straight, roomy trousers, the first two looks are extremely wearable today. Pair the jackets with flat-fronted, tapered-leg pants and you have something that’s very current.

      Also, as a short-legged guy with a rounder behind (who’s also very much into the aesthetics of vintage clothing, albeit from the Ivy heyday of the early 60s rather than the Classic Hollywood era,) I am a big advocate for the return of high-waisted trousers (or, “proper”-waisted trousers, as they actually sit on your waist, not on the hips like today’s crap).

      I think they not only make one appear longer and slimmer, but they also make one’s jacket look better-proportioned, with half of it below the waist of the trouser, and the other half above, avoiding one of today’s biggest menswear monstrosities. That is, the combination of a high button-stance, overly open jacket quarters and low-rise trousers, resulting in the bottom of a shirt showing while the jacket is buttoned. A quite serious sartorial faux-pas, in my book.

      As a fellow young man soon hoping to graduate from college (still can’t believe graduating college at 19 is possible in the US, we graduate high school at that age over here! Obviously we have much to learn from you guys, especially in the education field,) I admire you a great deal! Thanks for a very inspiring look at your style, Ethan!

    • Gigijay

      偽物ブランドバッグ通販Gorgeous ! a simple combination that results very well !

    • David

      I dig all the looks, though personally the flared pant legs aren’t something I could pull off, but Ethan puts it all together really well.

    • James Wong

      Very interesting article. Out of curiosity, I know Dan is a big fan of wearing suspenders without belt loops. Given that you tailor all your clothes, is there a reason you don’t remove them?

      • Ethan W.

        Altering vintage clothes is something I do very sparingly. As stated above, I only let out jackets and let down cuffs (or get them hemmed up); I only do things that are within the natural capabilities of the suit.

        All of these suits came with their original button-fly buttons, suspender buttons, and belt loops! I could never remove them! This is almost a hundred-year-old fabric!

        Plus, not all outfits should be worn with suspenders. Wearing a sweater over suspenders can make it difficult when you have to use the restroom. Think of all the layers you must remove…

        • James Wong

          Thanks for the reply Ethan, I understand that its part of the original design now and get why you wouldn’t want to change it more than you’d have to – I wouldn’t want to either :) keep up the good stuff man

    • Evan

      I wouldn’t wear Mr. Wong’s clothing (I couldn’t pull it off!) but he does flawlessly. Looking super good, super nostalgic. Hats off!

      • Ethan W.

        Thanks a lot pal! :)

    • Ali Naaseh

      At first glance, I was ready to trash Ethan for being too costumey. Upon reviewing the post a second time, reading some of his responses to other commenters, and checking out his instagram, I give Ethan two thumbs up. Well done, keep up the hard work and good attitude. You’re going to age magnificently.

      • Ethan W.

        I’m glad I wasn’t trashed!

        Thanks for the kind works! It truly means a lot to me!

    • TO

      I respect Mr. Wong’s execution here, even though I wouldn’t personally wear something so strictly from the era here is representing here (I truly do not like to wear a wide leg opening and generally prefer higher notch lapels and a lower gorge on suits than what this time represents).

      That being said, there are some pieces and details in here that I find choice and would wear without necessarily creating the context of a strictly vintage outfit- the Panama and straw boater are awesome and the purple herrringbone jacket is such a dope piece. The bi-swing and pleated centre-back seam are details I would definitely wanna try with my tailored clothing as well. Some good inspiration beyond the often narrow focus of detailing and fit that comes with living in the here and now.

      • Ethan W.

        Personally I love higher gorgeous! I’m about everage height and I find a slightly lower gorge makes me look unbalanced. To each their own! I love it when people have their own personal specifications to their clothes; it shows how much they take pride in the details!

        YES! Absolutely go for the “action-backs”! If you don’t mind thrifting, these jackets even went straight into the 1960s and 1970s, with higher notches and lower gorges, just like you want! :)

      • Ethan W.

        Oh and on the subject of the herringbone peak lapel, I found a modern one from TopMan at a goodwill! Perfect fit!

        I try to have modern and vintage counterparts in my wardrobe!

      • Ethan W.

        Oh and on the subject of the herringbone peak lapel, I found a modern one from TopMan at a goodwill! Perfect fit!
        I try to have modern and vintage counterparts in my wardrobe!

    • cam

      by definition, this is costume. i am in no way involved in vintage clothing or have no knowledge of this community. i’m just curious, if those who are embrace the costume vibe that it portrays to others or if they simply do not care. i mean this in no way to be disrespectful but i’m genuinely curious to this point. i get that this style of dress can fit perfectly into one’s lifestyle depending on their career but for the vast majority it cannot. it’s apparent, from a quick view of his instagram, that mr. wong himself does not dress this way exclusively.
      thanks for the feature and to any responses from those with more knowledge than me regarding this topic.

      • Don Draper

        I have to disagree, if you wear camo cargo’s now its just an outdated fad, but if you wear respectable and stylish clothing that just so happens to be 85 or 90 years old its costume?

        I think men should wear whatever they feel comfortable in as long as its stylish and gentlemanly (this does not mean only formal clothes). Of course your point is valid concerning dressing like that in the office not being the best career decision, because of people’s narrow mindedness, however to pay attention to people’s opinion of your style will not make you happier. It will cause you to dress down and not be yourself, which is a shame if you have a gift for dressing well.

        Furthermore as it happens Mr. Wong has his own style blog and so hopefully the career issue might not be an issue for him after all!

        • cam

          i respect your response but i dont think its an issue to ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ about. the definition of ‘costume’ is: a set of clothes in a style typical of a particular country or historical period.

          by his own admission, mr wong and his community of vintage dressers are going after a specific historical period. i was simply curious to how those in this community feel about this fact and how its viewed by others who dress for 2015.

      • Ethan W.

        Thanks for checking out my instagram!
        The community is a lot of fun. Some are people who wear vintage everyday, love to dance, love the deco furniture, and etc, and some are like me who just are in it for the clothes! They normally don’t care because they aren’t exposed to people such as the readers of AOS. The community are normal people, whether vintage dealers, pharmacists, tailors, or desk jobs. People they see everyday are the “modern” dressers who have no sense of style or fashion. As a result, we’re often criticized for simply dressing up in general!

        The costume aspect is a definite one, because it’s not what’s in at the moment. The hat (whether a boater or a fedora) adds to that especially. However, in the realms of the normal people, they can’t tell the difference. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worn a vintage cut suit and people say I look “the same” as to what I wear everyday.

        For me, vintage is a hobby. It’s filled with so many details and patterns that aren’t in the realm of a normal college student. What I’ve learned is that while many bespoke suits have the crazy patterns and lapels I want, vintage is so much cheaper! All of my vintage items have some sort of pattern or fabric and none of them nearly cost as much as the bespoke ones I also crave. It’s simple a way for me to look the best I can! What better way to do that than to dress like the golden age of menswear when everyone was “dressed up”?

        • cam

          thanks for your response ethan. i would advise you however that many ‘modern’ dressers do in fact have a great sense of style or fashion. that would be yourself included when you ditch the costume (again as evident in your instagram pics). all the best

          • Ethan W.

            Unfortunately, the “modern” dressers I refer to aren’t the ones on AOS. I used quotations as a bad thing! I refer to those guys in the 90’s three-button suits with the horrendous ties that is in the same set as their pocket square. It is these gentlemen who give the community the most flak.

            Guys who are actually into fashion, who understand the history, the look, and have their own style have a good relationship with the community, however!

    • Eric

      For a (seemingly) slender guy, I’d love to see slightly less flared leg openings…they are throwing off definite “pant suit” vibes in my head.

      • Ethan W.

        I get what you mean! Don’t worry, with modern dress I stick to slimmer pants.

        In actuality, it’s not as flared as you think. The grey suit does have a bit of a wider leg opening (as was the norm in the early collegiate 1930’s which was then replicated to EXTREME PASSION by the 1970’s) but a lot of them are pretty much straight from the thigh down.

        Vintage did have slim pegged legs which grew to its height in the mid 1920’s until they were replaced by wider legs (oxford bags) and stayed that way until the 1950’s.

        Unfortunately I don’t own any 1920’s trousers because they’re pretty rare! Here’s a great example of some slimmer 1920’s trousers. It’s even cuffed and worn with a dress boot!

        • TO

          I think you forgot to put in your example. Appreciate the historical info and I would be really interested to see your example of the 1920s trouser!

          • TO

            I see it now- those trousers look great! Exactly the aesthetic
            I am going for in 2015! Without the criminal vibe lol

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