Clutch Cafe: A guide to my favourite brands
There is a handful of menswear shops in London that I recommend regularly to friends visiting from abroad.
They include Trunk, Connolly, Drake's and Anderson & Sheppard Haberdashery. All boutiques, all founded in the past decade.
The most recent addition to that list is Clutch Cafe, the shop in Fitzrovia founded by the Japanese magazine of the same name.
It's just around the corner from my office at Mortimer House, and I've whiled away many a happy hour browsing the dozens of Japanese and other brands, with a coffee in-hand from the cafe upstairs.
But Clutch has one issue, and that is that there is just too much in there. Too many brands, too many qualities, too many styles, for anyone to easily get their head around.
On more than one occasion I've seen a friend wearing a cool piece, asked where they got it, and been told it was from Clutch - even though I'd never seen it before.
To a certain extent, this is a natural result of why the shop was set up. It was intended as a foreign home for all the brands featured in Clutch magazine, and magazines cover far more brands than any normal shop would stock.
So there are 15 brands offering T-shirts. Priced from £45 to £230. And most significantly, there is a variety of styles - from very classic and wearable, to much more unusual and period.
One of the purposes of this piece, therefore, is to provide a guide to the brands worth looking out for. The gems that offer great quality, are easy to wear, and which you can't find anywhere else in the UK - often, anywhere outside Japan.
There are, perhaps, a few different categories here.
The first is brands that are regularly featured on Permanent Style and other classic-menswear sites, and which at least some readers will be familiar with.
For those brands, Clutch is an opportunity to find different models or designs, or maybe just access them more easily.
They include Alden, Coherence, Paraboot, Red Rabbit and The Real McCoy's. There are models of Alden not available at Trunk - such as the snuff suede boot shown above - and Paraboot is sold few places anymore, particularly now Drake's does its own shoes.
The Real McCoy's have been headquartered in the basement of Clutch until recently, as they were between stores. The new one should be open soon.
But even when that's up and running, Clutch will have a selection of The Real McCoy's products. I'm a particular fan of the knitwear, but actually the one thing you can always count on with McCoy's is that the quality will be top notch. (And you can count on the price being high...)
Another way to categorise the brands is by quality level, and The Real McCoy's is a good example of one that belongs in the very top tier.
Also in that category is Buzz Rickson, which like McCoy's does faithful recreations of old garments - but usually in wearable cuts and styles.
A favourite Buzz Rickson piece of mine is their duffle coat, which I wore for a shoot with Clutch last year. If someone told me the wool was literally bulletproof I wouldn't have been surprised.
Other brands at that level include Himel Bros, the Canadian horsehide specialists. I bought their horsehide suede jacket (pictured above) from Clutch as a birthday present to myself this year.
And of course, Coherence, popularised by The Armoury and available at Clutch as of Spring/Summer 2020.
The image of Coherence above is a good illustration of the importance of a third category - style.
Many Japanese brands aim to recreate styles from the past. But some bring back wearable styles and cuts, while others delight in ones that are obviously 'period' and verge on costume.
In the image above, the polo shirt falls into the latter category, and I wouldn't wear the bucket hat either. But on top of them sits a Coherence jacket (the Vernon II) that is really nice.
It's navy, unusual only its details (like those deep breast pockets) and like most Coherence designs, is elevated mostly by its material - in this case an exclusive wool/linen/mohair.
A PS visitor to Clutch Cafe could easily browse last this mannequin without taking full stock of the Coherence design. Hence the need for explication and categorisation.
There are a few other brands I would recommend as very wearable - good-quality classics that can be woven into any modern wardrobe.
They include Cushman for its loopback knitwear (above), which is comparable to Merz b Schwanen but often comes in a greater range of colours and washes.
There's Warehouse, which has a lot of different products but I personally like the plain T-shirts. They're circular knitted (no side seam) in heavier, tougher cottons like most vintage-inspired tees. But not too short or square.
A friend recently asked what T-shirts I would recommend that were tougher than Sunspel, and might stand up better to life with small children. Most of these (plain) Japanese tees would be good there.
Jelado is similar to Warehouse in selling across a few different areas, though I'd particularly recommend the shirts - they do have some fairly unusual things in there.
PRAS makes vulcanised canvas trainers, similar to someone like Doek but a little chunkier and more casual.
And if you like rayon shirts - arguably a little period, but becoming more mainstream - then it's worth checking out Muller & Bros.
The last category is brands selling more esoteric designs, and often too vintage-looking for me. But there are some diamonds in there.
They include Stevenson Overall, from whom I have a really nice thermal, Belafonte, and Soundman.
And I don't think I've even mentioned half the brands yet.
I love Clutch. It's full of treasures. But it's taken me six months to get a sense of everything.
Hopefully this piece is a small help in narrowing down your search: a way into browsing online, or focusing a trip to the store.
Oh, and there is of course an amazing range of magazines. Which you can sit on a bench and read, right next to the cafe stall.
I do occasional styling work for Clutch, putting together outfits that are photographed for their Instagram account - and for which I am paid. However, as with everything else on PS, no payment for content is possible.
More on our policy on that, here.