Greenspans’ classic Southern California style
Pendleton has become hot among hipsters and high fashion lovers thanks to a new contemporary collection and collaborations with Opening Ceremony and Levi’s, as reported by our fashion critic, Booth Moore. So I was excited to see the overwhelming amount of classic Pendleton shirts in a vast array of colors and sizes, during a recent visit to Greenspans in South Gate.
The 83-year-old emporium houses mass amounts of quintessentially Southern California street wear and over the years has attracted a loyal following of locals and celebs, including the members of Cypress Hill and NWA as well as Dr. Dre, Eazy E, Johnny Marr and Lady Gaga.
Situated in an unassuming gray building a few miles southeast of downtown L.A., the 6,500-square-foot space is filled with an overwhelming amount of stuff ranging from vintage zoot suits, fedoras, wino shoes, tie bars, vintage Levi’s and a robust selection of Pendleton button-down shirts, something they’ve carried for several decades and continues to be a bestseller with older clientele and younger, fashion-savvy customers.
The merchandising, or um, lack there of, is haphazard at best, but thankfully owner Evan Greenspan, his son, daughter and attentive staff seem to know exactly where everything is, whether that’s sitting somewhere on the selling floor or buried in the stock room and they’re more than happy to find what you’re looking for. It’s an Army surplus store-like atmosphere, but with classic labels common to L.A (they were the first place to carry Dickies in California, which original owners Alex and Eva Greenspan began stocking back in 1944).
What started as a junior department store in Watts in 1928 has evolved into a men’s shop of original and covetable pieces with a distinct West Coast aesthetic. The Pendletons and winos in particular were uniform staples to surfers and cholos during the '60s and '70s and still continue to be popular for their durability and nod to classic California style.
Greenspans has also started producing items that resonate strongly with their customers who tend to buck trends and stick to their button downs, Dickies or carpenter pants and sometimes a gray and black wool varsity jacket. The varsity jackets (which have also been popular in fashion, Alexander Wang has included them in a couple of collections and has been known to sport one himself) are particularly popular with Southern California car clubs who buy the blank jackets and have them custom embroidered with their club logo.
“My father unintentionally filled the store with retro, classic items,” says Evan Greenspan of his father, Eddie, who took over the business from his parents in the early '40s.
“He liked the style of the '40s and '50s and didn’t get that hippy look with worn-out patches, that came around in the '60s. A lot of other people who didn’t really like the newfangled styles would come to us for the classic older styles.”
When polyester came and companies were getting rid of cotton and wools, the elder Greenspan bought up sharkskin suits and wool and cotton garments in styles from the '40s and '50s, and soon the store became known for its selection of zoot suits and accessories common to the Pachuco look.
During the '90s and early 2000s, when street-wear fashion was bling-y and label driven, Greenspans' sales suffered. But regardless, the family has always stuck to the tried and true items that built their business and dressed many Southern California residents who stick to old-school classics.
Photos: top: Exterior of Greenspans clothing store in South Gate; Right: T-shirts and fedoras at Greenspans; left: a shelf packed with Pendleton shirts; right: wingtips and winos; left: fedoras and more Pendletons/photos by Cory Desrosiers