Visiting: The Academy

Long Beach is a working class town. Always has been, always will be. But there’s a shop lurking around on 1st Street that brings a refined element to Long Beach. The Academy.

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You’ll immediately feel comfortable with its environs–unfinished wood displays, taxidermy, bikes, and grease abound. But you’re distracted by all the mise en scene–enchanting though they may be–and what you should really pay attention to are the clothes because they’re refinements of menswear staples.

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Let’s start with shirting, which is comprised mostly of Turkish chambray. Though chambray is known as a blue collar fabric, the Academy’s take on it is decidedly modern with its slender collar, lack of pocket, and slim fit. What you will find instead, if you look closely, are hidden buttons for the collar and French seams along the side hem. Sure, they’re subtle but what I like most about clothes in general and the Academy in particular are the nuances that you’ll only notice over time.

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Sam, the proprietor of the Academy, also takes pride in his denim which is sourced from the vaunted Cone Mills and then constructed in Los Angeles. Now, let’s be fair, there are a lot of high-end makers that source from Cone Mills or a Japanese textile mill and then build them in Los Angeles. In fact, if you own a pair of high-end denim, chances are they’re built in Los Angeles. But what sets the Academy apart is that they allow you to “build your own denim.” What does that mean? It means no rivets at all, copper rivets, blue enameled rivets, or rivets on the back pocket. (Ever wonder why rivets on the back pocket are so rare? Back in the day, cowboys used to complain about the copper edges scraping their leather saddles, so out they went.) It’s a simple touch but one that goes a long way in making the clothes more unique.

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Let’s talk about Sam a little bit, though. He studied product design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and explains his attention to the minutia. At the Academy all design is done in-house, including the design of the simple deerskin wallet below made of one continuous piece of leather.

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At first you’ll say about the wallet that anyone could have made that but simplicity is deceptively difficult to achieve. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “a designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

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The Academy’s got some other things coming out of the pipeline, too. I’d stay tuned if I were you.

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