Gastown Shop Hop corrals stylish menswear that won't break the bank
The sharp-dressed man is back. But he’s not your mother’s sharped-dressed man—no siree! The new SDM is part Amish indie rocker, part prohibition-era gangstah, part Kentucky Derby socialite, and part aristo O.K. Corral/lumberjack hybrid (think Wyatt Earp ’stache with designer plaid).
So where does this retro-inspired modern man shop? Well, if he lives in Vancouver, he’s probably getting his threads in Gastown. It’s definitely the epicentre of funky menswear these days and, surprisingly, many of the carefully curated clothing boutiques there offer relatively affordable luxury—which you can see for yourself at the upcoming (unisex) Gastown Shop Hop next Thursday (October 17) between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Take Niftydo (227 Carrall Street), for example. This hip little retailer carries all kinds of high-quality international designs that won’t break a fellah’s bank. Furthermore, most of these indie labels have a bit of history to them, making them a good match for the nostalgic feel of Gastown.
“Some of the brands that we carry have some sort of heritage,” explains co-owner Won Lee, who, along with his partner and brother Don Lee, recently sat down with the Straight at their brand-new store. “So they go with this street because it’s a heritage area and it’s just got a great vibe.”
One such label is Saint James, a Lower Normandy, France, company that was established in 1889 and specializes in nautically inspired fashion. The signature series consists of the navy and cream striped boatneck tops that start at $68. The Lee brothers also carry Buttero sneakers from Tuscany ($289). These sturdy, finely crafted Italian leather low-tops fuse the elegance of high fashion and the edginess of street wear. Also on the shleves are supersweet suspenders from Leatherworks Minnesota ($150). Now what sets these bad boys apart from other old-school braces is the carabiner clips, which give them a nice modern twist. Niftydo also carries a variety of premium jeans, including 3sixteen denim from New York (pairs start at $215).
Over at Nouvelle Nouvelle (209 Abbott Street)—which carries a selection of indie international and local labels for both men and women—buyer Amy York is also conscious of keeping the price point reasonable without sacrificing style and quality.
“I feel like guys want good pieces—they want to look good, especially in Gastown, but they want it at a realistic price,” she says. “So when we buy, that’s what I always keep in mind. If something goes up above a certain price, it’s like, ‘Well, I’ll leave that to Holt Renfrew.’ ”
That translates to ethically produced classic shirts with interesting design features like the London Alexander chambray polka-dot button-down ($175). Also from London Alexander, there’s the silky black quilted diamond bomber jacket with leather trim ($260).
When it comes to stylish accessories for guys, FortKnight Men’s Boutique (46 Alexander Street) is definitely worth checking out. This barbershop and lifestyle store in one has all the must-have accoutrements for the modern gent, including Ted Baker cufflinks ($130), locally made bow ties ($69), and chic silk pocket squares ($69). One of FortKnight’s most popular collections is the Kiel James Patrick bracelets ($50). Handmade in Rhode Island, these leather and nautical cord wraparounds are finished with solid brass anchor-shaped clasps—nice touch, no? And there’s plenty more funky finds like that in Vancouver’s historical ’hood.
“I think menswear fashion in general has become this whole new, much bigger segment,” says FortKnight sales associate Christopher Wakefield. “And Gastown is the hub of that—at least for this sort of retelling of the traditional look.”