Photography by Ben Rayner
Constructed from a specially coated cotton fabric woven in Como, Italy, the Drake's Raglan Rain Mac is a functional and weather-resistant knee length coat with raglan sleeves that slip easily over our soft tailoring. It comes complete with a detachable hood to protect against heavier rains showers; while further considered details include a soft, brushed cotton check lining, welted flap pockets, rubber-coated horn buttons and a double-loop surcingle slide belt. Wearing the Raglan Mac in New York is vintage dealer and friend of Drake's, Sean Crowely, who will soon be opening a pop-up version of his Brooklyn shop, Crowley Vintage, within the Drake's Open Studio on Canal Street.
Inside a small shop in Dumbo, Brooklyn, painted a smart and unassuming shade of matt grey with gold cursive lettering on the glass doors that, if you look closely, reads ‘Crowley Vintage', lies one of the great collections of classic tailoring, Scottish tweed, wool overcoats, trinkets, antiques, old trunks, Westernwear, rare Ivy, style ephemera and esoteric military uniforms. The eclectic manifestation of its eclectic owner: Sean Crowley.
An expert and Anglophile with two decades, but also a lifetime, in the arena of clothing, vintage and antiques, we visited Sean inside his shop and out on the streets of Dumbo to find out more about the appeal of a good raglan coat, the secret to sourcing those hard to find pieces and why we still look to silver screen style icons.
Drake's: Hi Sean, where did your love of vintage clothing come from?
Sean Crowley: I grew up in a family of collectors, artists and designers. My grandfather was a womenswear designer and he was obsessed with the sort of Victorian and Edwardian period, so he had lots of of antique textiles and clothing. I grew up watching a lot of British period stuff with my grandfather, who was a complete, raving Anglophile. Then when I was in college I worked for Bobby Garnett, who founded Bobby’s from Boston. He was also an Anglophile and I would travel with him to the UK for buying trips, where I discovered this whole new aesthetic. Bobby, who was this incredible vintage guru, introduced me to fashion people, because we would sell a lot of vintage to designers, and that is what propelled me into the realm of Ralph Lauren, which was my first design job.
What skills do you need to be good at selecting vintage pieces?
I think that there a couple of factors, one of which is that I've been in and around this stuff for so long that I've just gotten to know it. I grew up going to flea markets and estate sales and auctions and antique stores. Ultimately, the best education when it comes to anything, but especially with clothing, is the touch. It's the physical. I love this word, I think I stole it from somewhere in the museum world, but it's the 'haptic' quality, it's literally the tactile aspect of something. You can read about anything for as long as you want, but if you haven't physically experienced it, it’s not the same. I think, in that respect, I've had a very good education. Also, I’m 40 and I grew up as the internet was coming about, but there was no Instagram, or forums, or dedicated style websites, so I think that I was able to form my own interest and taste without feeling like I was swallowing the same material as everyone else. Then it's about having a good eye for quality and colour and pattern. A long answer!
What is it about a raglan coat that appeals to you?
I love raglan sleeves, raglan shoulders, whatever you want to call them. It’s tailored, but it’s casual. There’s an easiness to it, a slouchiness if you will, and I love that. It can be as casual, or formal as you like. You can have a raglan tweed coat and throw it on over jeans and a sweater, or go all Duke of Windsor and wear it over a tuxedo. It has that town and country and everything all rolled into one feel.
Is it more difficult to source vintage now than when you started out in the business?
Oh for sure. It's a blessing and a curse. It means vintage has become more and more desirable, so more people want it and are willing to pay for it, but more people are looking for it, too. I think it’s common among dealers to be slightly bitter. I understand, but there’s a silver lining, because more people are looking for it, fewer things end up in the trash. I think I’ve carved out something of a niche, because I’m not necessarily stepping all over the 300 guys buying the same stuff. Once upon a time great vintage fell out of the sky and that was a moment in time, but you just have to work harder and diversify. If you’re waiting for the good old days to come around, then you'll be waiting for a long, long time.
Why do you think the classic silver screen icons like McQueen, Newman and Brando still hold so much sway over modern men's style?
It has a real resonance and lasting appeal because it doesn't feel 'put on', it feels very organic. They really were dressing themselves, there were no stylists then. It feels effortless, no matter how much effort actually went into them getting dressed. There's also an inescapable romance that we ascribe to the past: The Good Old Days. there's never really been a good old day.
Is there one item of clothing that is particularly special to you?
That’s a tricky one, I’m such a magpie that it’s always hard for me to choose because every piece I have, I've personally selected. One thing that springs to mind is a beautiful 1971 Tommy Nutter suit. For me, being a tailored clothing nerd, it’s always been a dream piece. They’re very hard to find now. I also have an 1870s Royal Artillery blazer with grosgrain trimming. That’s very cool. I try and avoid pieces that would pop up if you if you googled ‘Vintage grails.’ They’re all my own personal favourites. I’m not sure that many people are searching for Royal Artillery blazers!
How are you seeing the men in your shop and around you dressing right now?
The same stuff that I was selling five years ago, I'm selling today. Men are still excited about a great jacket, about a great suit, a great piece of tailored outerwear. I think that for so many people, working remotely, or working from home, it's the same way that 50 years ago, if you had to wear a suit and tie, all you wanted to do when you got home was to tear it off. You wanted the other, the comfort. I really think that the opposite is true now. If your daily uniform is, or was, a pair of shorts, or yoga pants, you'll want to change. To dress up and feel smart again.