How can I be professional and sharp without the boots and braces?
August 19, 2010 3:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 28 year old woman. I know what aesthetic I want, where I can I buy clothing to make me into the butch-ish, 60s mod/skinhead of my dreams?

I'm a librarian who goes to a lot of meetings with national organizations and federal agencies. It's alway a struggle for me to feel somewhat normal in my professional togs. I have a general sense I probably look like a soccer mom. I typically wear jeans/khakis/corduroys, a button up shirt (plain, striped, classic plaid), and either a blazer or sweater.

Life was good when Ben Sherman reintroduced their womens line, but most of it ended up being too trendy (read: not the classic mod styles they were known for on the mens side) and then they discontinued the whole thing. Now the bulk of my professional wardrobe is from American Apparel or J. Crew. It's close to what I like, but I still feel like it could be more polished and more classic, not in that Hamptons way.

My biggest problem is that stuff is usually either not plain enough or not fitted enough. Pants are the biggest struggle because I don't like wide-legged cuts, which seems to be the common style. I prefer tapered or boot-cut legs. I'm 5'4" and and a size 10. I typically wear a medium shirt.

The other big wrinkle, aside from my picky and plain taste, is that I'm vegan and don't wear wool, silk, or leather.

Should I just buy men's shirts and get them altered? I have toyed with the idea of wearing skirts again, but then I worry about shoes and accessories. I should probably worry about those anyhow.
posted by kendrak to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Merc ship internationally, and it is the first store I associate "skinhead" with.
posted by griphus at 3:57 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Possibly naive answer: if you're looking for classic, are there vintage stores near you?
posted by Coobeastie at 3:59 PM on August 19, 2010

Mods and Rockers (no skinheads in the 60s) are the opposite ends of the spectrum. Are you trying for both? Or all at the same time?

You may have noticed that according to today's NYT, looking like Elaine from Seinfeld is hot.

Rather than paw through vintage, you could look for vintage patterns (Mary Quant designed for McCalls) and either learn to sew or have things made.

Vintage Jil Sander is completely plain and incredible.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:20 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fred Perry might be a option along with Merc.
posted by vespabelle at 4:49 PM on August 19, 2010

no skinheads in the 60s

Well, of course there were, and it's still widely regarded as the peak period of the skinheads - the point at which the entire style developed, stylistically and philosophically. And it developed out of the mod thing to a large extent, so the OP's post is succinct and accurate and says nothing about rockers anyhow

I have a female friend who's neither and actually pulls off the look you're talking about pretty well. She works for an NGO and has to look "professional" occasionally. She buys a lot of her clothes from the UK via the Internet, but as I'm neither a lesbian nor into that look, I've never asked her where, exactly, she gets them. But I will and I'll get back to you.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:50 PM on August 19, 2010

Mods and Rockers (no skinheads in the 60s) are the opposite ends of the spectrum.

Yes, there were skinheads in the '60s -- the whole look grew out of mod around the mid-60s (it was initially referred to as "hard mod," as opposed to the more dandified/proto-psychedelic mod look), so there's a very long history of overlap between the subcultures.

Fred Perry and Merc were my immediate thoughts, too. Also, if you check in regularly and look carefully, you should occasionally be able to find individual pieces that might work in a skinhead girl ensemble from retro retailers like ModCloth (though in general they tend more to the flowery/pretty/girly side of retro styles, but I've occasionally seen tops/sweaters/skirts that would work more on the rude girl/skinhead girl side of things). Also, check out the style section on -- it's UK-centric, but might still help give you some pointers nevertheless.

It appears you're in the Bay Area, and there's long been mod/scooterist scene there; do any of the local scooter stores have an attached clothes boutique? Or maybe flyers for boutiques or vintage stores that tend to carry mod/skin fashions?
posted by scody at 5:25 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have toyed with the idea of wearing skirts again, but then I worry about shoes and accessories.

Oh, and I forgot to mention: the question of shoes (other than Doc Martens) is a relatively easy one right now, given the current popularity of Oxfords... something like this will work with the kind of skirts and tops you're going for, and is definitely reminiscent of that certain plain/minimalist early mod/skin aesthetic (it's almost identical to the shoes one of the girls is wearing in a picture in this book). And Fred Perry makes womens' shoes, too, so some of those flats (like this!) should work as well.
posted by scody at 5:41 PM on August 19, 2010

(guh, chiming in again to say that I just remembered your caveat about leather, so the shoes I linked to won't work -- sorry. Some of the Fred Perry flats are made of canvas, though, so that would at least work for summer styles... and would bet you could find some non-leather heeled oxford alternatives in the style to the Rockports I linked to, e.g. this.)
posted by scody at 5:49 PM on August 19, 2010

There were plenty of skins in the 60s. OI! and hardcore skinheads came out more in the 70s with the rise of bands like cocksparrer and sham 69, before it was all ska and reggae.

Anyway, n'thing the merc, however it's gonna be hard to find vegan approved stuff there. There's always looking at ben sherman's website too.

Don't forget that wing tips were pretty big in that scene, and there are plenty of non-leather wing tips out there.
posted by TheBones at 6:02 PM on August 19, 2010

Okay, I stand corrected, but the hard mod look for a young woman in a professional setting might be a bit much.

Maybe getting very tailored shirts made, like the Thomas Pink ones, paired with off-the-rack pants. A personal shopper at a nice store (no charge) should be able to help you. Buy one pair and then get them copied by a tailor.

Wilkes Bashford is pricey, but trying things on might help decide what's the perfect pair of pants.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:21 AM on August 20, 2010

Why not wear skirts? The skinhead girls in this picture and this picture are good examples of a skingirl look that could be work appropriate with a few tweaks.

The button-up and cardigan is already work friendly...just wear a longer skirt, go for sheer or black tights instead of fishnets, and wear it with black oxfords like girls in the second picture. Like scody mentioned, oxfords are really in style right now and it shouldn't be hard to find a vegan pair - I have a cheap pair from Aldo that I'm pretty sure are synthetic.
posted by vanitas at 10:22 AM on August 20, 2010

Thank you all for the answers! I used to lust after Merc stuff, and then they went very trendy/modern in a gross way about 5 years ago. It's good to see they're going to their roots. I'm also surprised that most of their knits are cotton.

Last year I chucked all my polos that weren't Fred Perry, so I'm pretty covered for more casual stuff.

I like the idea of tailored shirts, though it's a little intimidating for some reason.

I will also look into sourcing vegan wing-tips. I had a pair of vegan Chelsea boots made a couple years ago, but they are not comfortable at all for conferences. They look good though.
posted by kendrak at 10:37 AM on August 20, 2010

I know you mentioned JCrew, but not sure if you've looked into the guy's pants? They're going more mod(ish) these days and have lots of slim cut pants (they sometimes call it vintage too). If you have a JCrew card they'll hem them to the inseam you want for you (possibly for free or super cheap).

There are also a few spots online where you can get oxford shirts made to your specs for around $70. I know a girl who uses: which I haven't tried yet, but intend to.
posted by jdl at 11:50 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Problems getting my little Assus online:   |   Asking ex-wife to change her name Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.