It’s that time of year again, Monterey Car Week, which unofficially starts with the McCall’s Motorworks Revival at the Monterey Jet Center on Wednesday night through Sunday’s main event, the 69th annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. In between those bookend events are numerous big-dollar auctions, fabulous parties, killer car shows, historic races, and more scattered about the Monterey Peninsula. While it’s a car geek’s paradise, preparing for the week’s events can be fraught with peril (at least for me) when it comes to deciding what to pack and what to wear.
Not everyone frets about their Monterey wardrobe like I do. I’m still stunned—STUNNED—whenever I see someone stepping out of a meticulously restored, million-dollar classic looking like they just climbed out of a greenside bunker on the 9th hole at the Pebble Beach Golf Links.
“Dressing better has to come from within,” said my friend Matthew Hranek, author of A Man and His Watch, the forthcoming A Man and His Car, and the publisher of the WM Brown Magazine. told me: “For the well-dressed man, I think confidence is number one,” he added.
A car-loving bon vivant, Hranek’s collection includes a 1987 Porsche 911 Targa Carrera in chocolate brown over tan, a 1974 VW Super Beetle, a 2001 John Deere Gator, and his latest obsession—a 1982 Fiat Panda in Khaki designed by Giugiaro.
His dream car? “Well, honestly, I own it—the Fiat Panda—just kidding sort of … No, my 911 is my dream car and always has been! It was the car that I had a poster of on my wall as a kid and it’s still the car that makes my heart beat a little faster when I see it,” Hranek said. “But, if I really had to choose the fantasy car, I’d take a Ferrari Dino in silver with a red interior all day long!”
Hranek is always well turned out, even when he’s at work covering an event. His love of fashion has even led to a collaboration with Italian shoe brand Scarosso on a classic tassel loafer (the WM Brown edition, $265), which just hit the market. “If you don’t care about good tailoring and well made things in terms of wardrobe, it’s a lost cause,” Hranek said. “But, if you care at all, find your style stride and a good tailor, keep it simple, classic, and the right fit. Also, find your uniform and stick with it.”
Easy enough to say, but harder to pack for almost a week’s worth of wildly diverse events. One of the biggest issues I’ve had over the years has been lugging my bag(s) up to Monterey, a problem often made worse when traveling in a car with little more than a frunk’s worth of cargo space. There are other options to getting your gear there, such as UPS, FedEx, or a new startup called Luglees (prices vary), a service that makes it super easy to ship your bags with little to no hassle. One of the best parts of Luglees is they’ll pick them up from your house or office.
Though there was a time when I brought an entire suitcase full of shoes to Car Week, I’ve been able to narrow it down to a few key items over the years chosen for comfort and looks, echoing Hranek’s advice. Though my base uniform isn’t for everyone, it’s comfortable and starts with white jeans, usually from Uniqlo ($49.99), and a blue sports jacket. I’ve been into pique knit jackets lately, and you can pick one up at prices across the spectrum—from J Crew to Brooks Brothers to Zegna. I usually pair it with a knit tee or a cotton button down shirt, especially from the fabulous Italian brand Eleventy ($195), an outfitter known for its perfect spread collars. The right sneakers are also key for getting around Monterey in comfort, especially so when trudging through the paddock at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. A couple of my go to kicks are the low key Allbirds (from $95) and the maximalist Hoka One One Bondi 6 (from $150), shoes so comfortable you can walk for miles and miles and never feel them on your feet. I wear a variation of this getup every day. It’s almost like following a line on a track, everything is planned and ready to execute.
As for what I carry with me, I usually bring along headphones by Master & Dynamic (one of the sponsors of the Concours d’Elegance), either the MW65 ($499) noise-canceling model or one of the in-ear wireless models such as the MW07 ($299). Both are lightweight and stylish. And don’t forget to pack a camera. Mine is the trusty Olympus PEN-F ($1,299) with a 25mm lens ($399), to shoot the cars, people, and the watches, which can then be downloaded to my iPhone.
What you wear during Monterey Car Week doesn’t need to be expensive to look good, according to designer Todd Snyder, whose collaboration with Toyota FJ restomod builder The FJ Company rolled out recently. Snyder’s a proponent of always looking your best, and his menswear brand offers stylish clothing for just about every price point.
“Just like a car, which is an extension of yourself, style for me has always been the same and how you dress affects how much you can sell a car for, do in a job interview, and get laid.” Snyder said with a laugh. “I think it’s important to present yourself—especially if you’re going to an event and spending a lot on cars—and to look your best. Look the part and be taken seriously.”
The same sense of style applies to the FJ Company’s Todd Snyder Edition G43 (from $185,000). With its custom Red Wing Leather interior and four custom paint colors, it’s a wholly special machine, even coming from a brand like The FJ Company, whose stock FJs are drool worthy as it is.
“The FJ is a perfect balance of style. I love the old ones, but taking something classic and doing something new with it and making it modern is my ethos. As I got to know the brand, and hearing their stories, I fell in love with it. It made sense to do something together.” Snyder said of his collaboration with FJ Company. “I’ve always been a huge admirer of classic vintage and all my designs are in some ways always looking in the past for moving forward. I like to make the old new and juxtapose classic with a modern take. The FJ we did is a perfect example of that.”
Speaking of collaborations, this year for the first time I went the made-to-measure route when putting together my annual bespoke Car Week outfit by enlisting the services of the team at Knot Standard. The company lets the customer help design everything from custom suits to loungewear and delivers it in about six weeks at around the same cost as something off the rack.
“What’s important about our business is that our suit at the $850 price point is a superior product to what’s on the market. That’s our value proposition,” John Ballay, founder and CEO at Knot Standard told me. “When looking at the suit, from the outside, things seem the same but when you look under the hood, it’s vastly different. When our customers come into the showroom they can choose from 8,000 fabrics and work with experts in what they do.”
After spending about two hours with my Knot Standard stylist, Gage Minton, looking at book after book of fabric, we finally decided on a lightweight burgundy from the Italian mill Vitale Barberis Canonico (suits from $1,150), whose history dates to 1663. While Knot Standard has a wide array of fabric books, to me VBC has the perfect mix of price and durability—you could call them the Subaru WRX STI of fabrics.
The fabric itself was a Kid Mohair and Wool that was perfect from the go. Why a Mohair suit?
It adds a sheen and breathability to the suit and, after a few nights of wear, is crease resistant. We chose a two button, wide lapel, half-lined suit with working buttonholes on the jacket, two inch cuffs on the pants, and my name in script on the inside pocket. Like a custom spec’d car ordered from the factory, I got what I wanted down to the @guzcontrol embroidered on the underside of the jacket collar.
In keeping with a year of firsts, I also had a custom hat made. Chapelo Hats makes fully bespoke, handmade hats in Sylvania, Ohio. Prices start at $1,295 and take six to eight weeks. Each hat comes with a hat box, Chapelo hat brush, and band block to help maintain its shape.
Yes, that’s a lot of coin for a hat, but a ton of work goes into making each one. Getting fitted is a process in and of itself. Chapelo’s proprietor Jonathan Rodebaugh used an actual Victorian-era Conformateur along with a soft tape and head calipers to measure the shape of my head. Neat stuff that’s not unlike getting fitted for a custom racing helmet. But instead of carbon fiber, my head will be protected by beaver felt.
It’s pretty extraordinary how much time and thought Chapelo put into making my hat. “We took some of your prominent facial features such as head size (slightly large circumference) and receding chin,” Rodebaugh said. “These features call for a medium/large brim, a medium/large crown, and a medium ribbon that closely matches the felt color. Your body type echoed these selections and allowed us to opt closer to medium on brim width and crown height.
“One alteration I made was to slightly taper the crown circumference. This will help to give you a little height without making the hat appear too large for your head. This is further accentuated by opting for a point pinch over the side pinch. The suggestion for wearing this hat is to have a deep snap on the front and curled up in the back. Additionally, you can wear this hat either straight or tilted off to the side,” Rodebaugh continued. “The hat is 100 percent American beaver and can be worn year round depending on climate. It will be a hot option in warm weather, but is still acceptable especially considering the light silverbelly color.”
Rodebaugh, who’s also a car guy, approaches hat design in a way that also applies to car customization or how you cultivate your look: “Acquiring the perfect hat starts with sourcing the right materials, having the right processes, and knowing how to use the proper tooling for both measuring and build construction.”
Words to live by. See you on the Peninsula!