In one breath, Larry McKaughan will tell you that he feels sorry for whoever sits next to him on his regular flights from Seattle to Tokyo because of the earfuls he unloads about the functionality of buckle-back jeans and the modern misappropriation of the watch pocket.
But in the next breath, McKaughan—who runs Heller’s Cafe and collaborates with the Japanese brand Warehouse to reproduce high-end Americana workwear that’s so exclusive and quickly snapped-up (lots of it by J.Crew) we can hardly provide you with a hot link to what it looks like—will tell you that he isn’t a vintage expert or historian and doesn’t know all the super geeky ins and outs that serious stuff-amassers and documentarians can go on about.
The truth is somewhere in between. He’s more a merchant than a collector, and he only buys and sells the big price-tag antique and vintage pieces that he loves, so he doesn’t have to worry about the nitpicky details of every era and every style. But, when it comes to that stuff he loves—hoodies from the 1930s, train conductor coats of distressed denim, turn of the century overalls—he’s not just encyclopedic, he’s philosophical.
And, he’s also a pretty good walking advertisement.
Here McKaughan wears khakis in what is called a "worker’s master finish." (Here he wears denim-on-denim.) After a pair of heritage pants’ construction, lines, pockets, and details were recreated, another step was taken to place them in the realm of new/old Americana. If you look closely you’ll see what might be paint splatters, putty material marks, and decades of wear. The effect is subtle, but without the worker’s master finish, you’re just looking at a pair of chinos.
Not that there’s anything wrong with chinos. McKaughan acknowledges that the menswear staple is having a moment (or, they never stopped having a moment; the way the Sartorialist photographs them in Italy and Japan, they’re the definition of timeless). The clothing merchant says it’s one of his goals to define, and produce, the perfect pair.
The material of McKaughan’s jacket and vest is a double-printed canvas created by Warehouse especially for this line; it yields a heavy, stiff look that’s in keeping with workwear standards as your grandfather would have known them.
Oh, and that button tee-shirt that’s layered underneath? Based on a 1920s salvaged one that bore a J. C. Penney’s label. Everything old is new again.