The Shophound found ourself on the Lower East Side yesterday, and realized that we hadn't visited the original Freeman's Sporting Club store on Rivington Street for a couple of years. Even though they have a new branch on the more often traveled Bleecker Street, we thought we would stop in for a fresh look at the original as the trend for arcana of all sorts in menswear that the store/barber shop has helped fuel has reached a peak this season.
Here's what we liked:
- The hand-tailored suits made from dead-stock British fabrics —Freeman's signature product— actually look better than ever. We remembered them as looking self-consciously vintage-y, heavy and old fashioned, but they seem to have shifted to more subtle, lighter and more classic fabrics for a more contemporary but still elegant look. There are also smartly styled Harris Tweed sportcoats with just enough detail to be interesting without looking like you have just arrived from a pheasant hunt in the English countryside.
- Shoes! There are still Quoddy handsewn moccasin styles to be had but F.S.C. has added a small but exclusive ready made selection of limited edition shoes from the formerly custom-only bootmaker E.Vogel, one of the city's best kept secrets. Sure, they're $825, but in the world of handmade men's shoes, that's actually surprisingly reasonable
- As men's stores all over the city have gone hog-wild for lumberjack plaids, Freeman's has gone subdued. Of course, there are plenty of flannel shirts, but the patterns and colors are subtler and more sophisticated than we remembered, and will likely still look good when fashion's fascination turns away from foresters toward the next archetype.
- Freeman's has remained true to its "Buy Local - Made In The U.S.A." ethos. Now hat the company is growing, they haven't suddenly shifted production offshore. It's nice to know that when investing in quality merchandise of a certain price range, you are also supporting skilled artisans, many of whom whom work less than a borough away.
And here's what we didn't love:
- Typically, The Shophound likes to browse in peace. We don't mind being acknowledged, but we, and most people we know, find excessive fussing annoying. However, one would think that when trying on an $1,860 coat, a salesperson might check and make sure we had the right size, or even point us in the direction of the mirror —You know, make the most marginal effort to try and sell us something that we appear interested in.
Just go back to your Blackberry. We're sure that's much more important.
So overall, the pros far outweigh the cons, and Freeman's Sporting Club is not only holding up well, but seems to be evolving and possibly transcending its niche. They should be around for a while —as long as they step up that service.
Freeman's Sporting Club 8 Rivington Street between Bowery & Chrystie Streets, Lower East Side
and 327 Bleecker Street at Christopher Street, West Village