I’m Nik Koos and I currently live in Saarbrücken, Germany. Main occupation, although not defined by trade: fitness fanatic. After traveling the globe in my twenties I then studied and became a psychologist, both organisational and clinical. Right now I’m working in a restaurant next door to me that I grew into, enjoying physical labour and helping the business grow wherever I can.
Nik rocking a neckerchief, polo, flannels and denim jacket.
How did you become interested in vintage fashion/classic styles?
Exposure to 1930s and 50s movies, mostly, accompanied by an interest in the history of the 20th century and a historical approach to my academic studies which, briefly put, aims at looking for historical references in order to learn more about how current methods work, why they are being used in the first place and what any alternatives might look like. At some point I found myself becoming interested in clothing of the past as well. The construction and cut of many vintage garments felt so functional and comfortable to me that I never looked back once I had tested the waters. Conversely, current trouser and even dress shirt and tailored jacket cuts felt dysfunctional to me after that.
How would you describe your personal style? Has it evolved over time?
I am now gravitating towards 1930s/40s workwear, with some military items thrown in or, in the other direction of formality, a sports jacket. The 1930s were rather unique in the often-practiced approach of combining slightly different levels of formality in one outfit. The rules were there, but it was even better to bend them a little.
I like beautifully patched and repaired originals just as much as new-looking ones and repro garments. I still enjoy 1930s tailored clothes that I used to wear more often, but I find the less dressy garments so much easier to incorporate into outfits that are different enough, but not too outlandish from a contemporary point of view. In terms of combining items, I put texture and fabrics first, colours and pattern second. In terms of cut, mid to late 1930s cuts are clearly my favourite out of the 1910s to 1960s timeframe, although I also mix by decade as well as by country of origin if I like the result.
Nik wears an SJC jade green long sleeve spearpoint collar polo in bamboo, with genuine 1930s vintage.
My transition from contemporary to all-vintage (or vintage and repro) outfits was gradual. I still like the idea of mixing vintage with contemporary, even though I don’t really practice it anymore, simply because virtually all of my wardrobe (except actual sportswear) is now either original vintage or repro, and has been for years.
With vintage, I find it amazingly easy to dress different yet cool from the point of view of a non-vintage onlooker. It’s the simplest way of describing it. Dressing different is something that I have been doing inadvertently for as long as I can remember. During my teens years in the 90s, I didn’t feel the fashion that I was exposed to locally. The 2000s left me cold as well, being something of a transition period in mainstream fashion. I would say that it was only by around 2012-14 that mainstream fashion found a new coherent style, a new distinct look. By that time I had already become at home in vintage styles. Somehow, I really like the juxtaposition of 1910s-50s vintage and the current fashion. They’re so remote from each other, yet strangely compatible. Seeing well-dressed people wearing either of the two doesn’t make the other one look badly dressed – both ways. I think that’s really cool.
When on the search for new pieces to add to your collection, what do you look out for in particular? What interests you the most? Do your interests change very often?
Over the years I have found it most useful not to be too specific in one’s searches and instead to keep an open mind. This way, my wardrobe has grown organically by adding pieces that, at the time, simply felt like “me” - and most of them still do. If I feel that an items works for me, I don’t have to start thinking what to wear with it because there will be plenty to combine it with. Conversely, if I do have to start thinking ‘what can I wear this with?’ then the item is most likely not for me and I’ll skip it.
There are so many factors at play when choosing vintage that it’s hard for me to pin down a list with tick boxes. Sometimes a really cool design happens to be sought-after, sometimes it’s virtually unknown, perhaps a one-of-a-kind item flying under the radar. With some workwear items, it’s all about the degree of wear and the old repairs. More generally, sometimes it’s the basic cut, or rather obviously the fabric/texture, sometimes it’s a detail like the hardware/buttons, stitching, construction that makes a piece stand out.
Nik sporting the mustard polo with SJC Flannel trousers and a German 1930s pilot's jacket.
What interested me the most is the basic cut and functionality in construction. Not every 1930s jacket is constructed well just because it was made in the 1930s. A well-made armhole was perhaps easier to find back then than in the 1950s, but that’s all. These are details that can be inspected in person only and, with tailored clothes especially, there are always the anatomical differences between wearers. Next on the list, texture and fabrics/materials and only then, colour and pattern.
My interests in vintage clothes don’t really change, rather I discover new basic styles/models that I wasn’t interested in before. And some basic styles that I did try simply tended not to work me, such as longer leather jackets (long halfbelts, Barnstormers etc.). So I discard some designs and rediscover others, but the core interest hasn’t really changed in years except that the level of formality that I wear most often changes from time to time.
How does the German vintage scene differ from say, the UK or US?
The German vintage scene seems more scattered to me than that of the UK or the US, at least outside Berlin and Hamburg. It just doesn’t happen very often that you bump into someone wearing vintage, or even vintage-inspired.
In the final analysis, accessibility and exposure are probably the biggest factors here. People here are not as exposed to seeing folks dressed in vintage the way they would be in London. Added to this, finding vintage outside of online sources in Germany – excluding Berlin and Hamburg, I presume – does take a lot of effort.
I’m not that well connected via social media to be a judge, but it seems to me that in Germany, the hardcore all-vintage scene is really small whilst the vintage-inspired, especially workwear-related scene is much bigger compared to the former. This I would believe to be the scene that is actually more interested in finding good reproductions as well as vintage-inspired pieces than in finding originals. The level of information regarding vintage among those interested in vintage to some degree also seems more limited here compared to the hot spots of vintage in our world; nevertheless the style when seen does seem to appeal to many.
What is your favourite vintage piece? Or do you have many?
I don’t think I can narrow it down to one. One favourite: 1930s German/French horsehide short halfbelt SB button-front with fantastic armholes and a lovely rare design detail of the side cinches being integrated into the backbelt. Then, a 1930s British SB 3-button patch pocket sports jacket in jade green windowpane-patterned homespun tweed. A 1930s German DB button dark jade wool knit in the design of the more common DB aviator leather waist-length jackets. A 1930s British 3-piece SB peal lapel suit with alternating stripe, lovely moderate rope shoulder on that one. A 1930s French striped cotton workwear trouser with beautifully patched knees and wood buttons.
Is your collection always growing?
The wardrobe has been growing slowly, on a coming in and going out basis. There’s a turnover rate, and some pieces I hold onto for longer. I don’t expect it to grow much more since, to me, it doesn’t feel like I have that much more ground to cover and I’m happy with what I have. So the turnover is likely to get slower, but I keep discovering new basic styles such as, right now, military.
What is your ‘go to’ look?
In terms of silhouette, my preferred look is trousers high and wide (1930s cut), non-tailored jackets short (as in waist to hip length, most of them being 20” to 24” back length). My everyday trousers are washable – mostly SJC plus some vintage workwear.
This winter, I quite often wore a B-10 flight jacket with rust knits, SJC 2018/19 denim Big Bs, striped t-shirts (St. James or Telnyashkas) or plain t-shirts, with or without a boatneck heavy gauge hip-length sweater, Aero Town boots or Fracap mountaineering boots. Snow during shoulder season it’s most any SJC washable trousers from denim over heavy cotton to chinos, with striped t-shirts or SJC polos and halfbelts. Cotton neckerchiefs are a bit of a trademark of mine although I don’t wear them every single day. During the heat of the summer months when I don’t give a nickel, quite often just Thai fisher pants during my break, exercising in the park or just resting my weary bones in the sun.
Tell us about the others things you collect (please include photos!)
Actually I don’t really consider myself a collector. I know, it sounds silly with a wardrobe like this which clearly is a collection. But it doesn’t feel like collecting – it’s wardrobe and buy & sell in equal parts. If there’s anything I collect, it’s movements and everything that the body learns, if that makes sense.
Here wearing all SJC with his flannel trousrs, cap, blue herringbone beltback jacket and diamond dot dress shirt.
How did you discover SJC?
I first heard of the young SJC forum on The Fedora Lounge. That was before the first kickstarter.
Do you have a favourite SJC garment?
Several. The first would be the summer 2017 and the winter 2017/18 polo shirts in bamboo fabric which revived the old method of making viscose/rayon out of cellulose, thus a semi-synthetic rather than fully synthetic production. Pre-1960s rayon was based on wood pulp which resulted in fabric properties entirely different from its modern brethren. The bamboo rayon has a completely non-synthetic handle, and although quite different yet again from pre-1960s rayon, it’s a most successful twist on an older formula. And the cut and design is so good that the polos have become an SJC staple, with variations on design and fabric for future collections.
The 2018 herringbone twill denim trousers of the workwear collection are another favourite. The fabric was based on 1930s-50s HBT coveralls, dyed with natural indigo. Another major success in terms of cut as well, in my opinion.
The 3-piece workwear suit of the 2018 workwear collection, made in a salt-n-pepper cotton, was even better in terms of fabric density and resistance to wear. As for the cut, I would say it was the first fully successful 1930s suit design of SJC.
The winter 2018/19 denim Big B trousers need to be in this list because they have, to me, a very well executed, flattering pattern which also happens to be true to what I would consider ideal 1930s proportions.
What would you like to see SJC do in the future?
In terms of fabric, the quest for higher weave density should continue, wherever feasible. The problem is well-known, it’s all about locating mills that bought the old hardware off the U.S. decades ago - and preferably outside Japan, for financial reasons. China seems to have some of them by now. Some of the fabrics made so far have come a long way, for sure – the 13oz salt-n-pepper cotton, for example, gave excellent results after heavy wear.
Regarding existing designs, I’d like SJC to settle on suitable well-designed staple items, such as the Brookland jacket, the polos, the 2018/19 striped flannel shirt, the Big Bs and other tried-and-true trouser patterns in ever new fabrics as well as tried-and-true staple fabrics.
Regarding new designs, there’s lots to be found in original 1930s leather jacket patterns for use in textile versions which are harder to find, both vintage and new. Continental workwear is full of rare jacket designs.
Once financially feasible, proper spade sole shoes should be a market worth tapping into because they are virtually nonexistent elsewhere – which I believe says more about the difficulty of making them than about the market for them.
Socks in patterns outside the usual polka dots and small patterns offered by contemporary high-quality brands could become another low-price item, similar to the polos for which SJC has become well-known.
Thinking further ahead, I see no reason why SJC shouldn’t, in the long run, try to create new styles that transcend both vintage and contemporary, always next to its basic line of classic garments with which it is now setting foot in the industry.
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