It’s a funny thing, the “Heritage” trend. As anyone in the fashion industry (er, I mean ’style’ industry – got to keep it menswear blog appropriate) will tell you, everything that’s old will eventually be new again. And so, the current popularity of utilitarian garments from the 1930s – 1950s amongst the modern non-utilitarian set isn’t all that shocking. What’s funny, though, is that the items that make up the trend were never intended to be fashionable. They were designed and built purely for functionality. That’s why they’re still around, decades after their inception. That these items are now a part of a trend, and, as such, suddenly have a shelf-life – well, it entirely defeats their purpose.
So then, the question is what happens when the trend is over? The new brands will either fold, or re-tool. That’s fine. But what about the old dogs? The ones that have been quietly chugging away for decades, turning out the same handful of products. Are they, because of their inclusion in this trend, to become passe? Are these brands, that five years ago people weren’t buying because they didn’t know about them, now going to go un-purchased because people are purposely avoiding them (Gloverall as the new Von Dutch)? Not if Sweetu Patel, the owner and proprietor of New York’s excellent C.H.C.M., has anything to say about it. Though stocked almost exclusively with classic brands, Patel’s store still manages to offer something none of the other “vintage-inspired” upstart shops of the last two years do: heritage without the capital H.
Exclusive items from Valstar, R6, Uniform Wares and Seil Marschall.
Launched in March 2009, C.H.C.M. has evolved from one of the most meticulously curated and respected menswear shops on the web, to a full-fledged brick-and-mortar in NYC’s bustling NoLita neighborhood. Says Patel, “we are a tiny shop / website that is growing organically.” Though tiny, C.H.C.M. is responsible for bringing an astounding number of brands to North America. “We were the first American stockists of Diemme, Chauncey, Uniform Wares, R6, Lavenham, Seil Marschall. And we were also the first to carry certain styles from other brands, such as the ‘Down Valstarino’ by Valstar, the ‘Hooded Farndon’ by Mackintosh, Northern Watters Sweaters which were originally made for the Japanese market back in 1998, and a few others.”
Exclusive items from Northern Watters, R6, Diemme and Mackintosh.
When asked about what criteria he takes into consideration when choosing his stock, Patel responds, “Simple, Classic, always stylish. I don’t have a conscious criteria when buying, I just buy what feels right instinctively.” This would explain why, when taken individually, the pieces at C.H.C.M. vary dramatically on an aesthetic level. However, when paired together, they feel unified. Partially because they’re all so well-made, and partially because even though they’re from different eras, once their design was finalized, it never changed. “All these brands have a history. [They have] always been around. They just go in and out of view.”
A glimpse inside the new C.H.C.M. brick and mortar space. Image via.
However, it’s more than just the products that set C.H.C.M. apart. It’s also the presentation. By utilizing a minimalist, almost stark approach Patel allows the items to speak for themselves, free of context. As a customer, you’re not beaten over the head by a lifestyle. There are no sepia tones, no tilt-shift heavy promo videos. It’s only the goods (and what makes them good) that are on display, allowing their timelessness to really shine through. To put it another way, when looking at C.H.C.M.’s wares (both online or in-store), you don’t see a trend item with a ticking-clock on its wearability, you see a lifelong investment.
Spend two minutes speaking with Patel, and it becomes hard to imagine him taking an approach that isn’t pretense-free. Despite having one of the coolest shops in NYC, the guy is as affable as they come. “I was always interested in opening a shop, since walking into my neighborhood clothing store in Northampton, UK back in 1989. I used to save up my money so I could go there. The owner was really friendly and had some great brands, even back then.” This initial source of inspiration shines through in everything Patel does. Though he clearly loves what he’s doing, this is not a man who takes himself or his clothes too seriously.
Another look inside the C.H.C.M. space. Image via.
“[Heritage] was pretty popular in the UK in the late 80’s when a lot of kids at my school were wearing Barbour Jackets, Timberland boots, etc. We didn’t have a name for it then, it was just cool stuff. Then a few months later everyone started wearing flares and Clark’s wallabies in bright colors. Maybe that’s whats going to happen next!” It’s precisely that lighthearted approach to trend, that keeps Patel’s merchandise from being pigeonholed. Fitting then, that when I bumped into him at last week’s (capsule) – the official show of capital H Heritage – Patel was on his way out the door. “I’m going uptown, to the old man show. Want to see the Drakes scarves. That’s a little more interesting to me.”
C.H.C.M. is located at 2 Bond St. in Manhattan. For hours and directions, visit the C.H.C.M. website.