Some time around 2010, Brooklyn became more than just a borough in New York City. It turned into a brand; fueled by the hordes of creative professionals settling in some neighborhoods, Brooklyn started being associated with a distinct aesthetic, especially in menswear and lifestyle. It became quite common to see men wearing thick-rimmed glasses, sporting full beards and steampunk-worthy moustaches. They had a preference for skinny jeans, boxy shirts with a front pocket and dainty patterns for the summer or flannel in the winter months. They would wear lace-up boots or minimalistic sneakers in neutral colors.
Lifestyle-wise, they had a predilection for locally-sourced ingredients, the notion of “artisanal” and “craft” beverages and fixed-gear bikes. For decor, you could see them gravitate towards mid-century-inspired furniture, animal motifs and low-watt bulbs. It was not an outwardly pretentious lifestyle: most of the accoutrements could easily be found in flea markets and thrift stores, but it carried a definite cultural cachet.
In 2010, business and life partners John Marsala and Becka Citron opened the first Modern Anthology store in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn—once an industrial area, then an artists’ neighborhood and now a posh enclave. A second location in Boerum Hill, an area teeming with high-end restaurants, boutiques and antique stores followed in 2015, and, as of today, remains the sole location of Modern Anthology. Its presence is a testimony to the style-defining attributes of Brooklyn boutiques.
They were striving to create a hub for “masculine lifestyle” characterized by integrity and sense of humor. They have been selling what the “Brooklyn guy” would gravitate towards once he acquired disposable income and a more refined appreciation of craftsmanship and materials: clothing, grooming, and home décor mostly sourced from small US-based manufacturers and design companies, even though there are more than a few nods to Scandinavian brands.
Their apparel section builds what fashion magazines—for any gender—have been struggling with since they debuted on newsstands: a capsule wardrobe with elevated basics that manage to be more than functional, creating a foundation for the non-corporate-world professional who eschews both flamboyance and street style-inspired fashion. Expect a selection of worker shirt, coming in a variety of colors (muted hues such as teal and mustard yellows are a staple) and dainty patterns, usually in botanical motifs.
Modern Anthology endorses the brand “Bridge & Burn,” a Portland-based apparel brand that, per its statement has been “creating classic, understated clothing inspired by the natural beauty and thriving culture of our hometown.” So how does Portland, Oregon fit into the Brooklyn aesthetic? Well, the “Brooklyn Brand” pretty much became the portmanteau for a type of fashion and lifestyle of a demographic whose sense of belonging stems from shared interests rather than from a geographic location, strictly speaking. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see the same “Brooklyn” style in Austin, TX, Berlin, Medellin, St. Petersburg, and more.
When it comes to bottoms, Modern Anthology endorses raw denim, which, unlike the heavily processed high-street denim one is used to wearing, ensures a more optimized fit and molds better to one’s body. Their raw-denim brand of choice is Raleigh Denim, which is nostalgic for a time “when North Carolina was the mainstay for great American made denim.” Don’t take these fashion cues as normcore: accents such as Olaf Olsson’s ties, which come in brightly colored patterns and are made with Japanese fabrics, enliven an outfit.
Like the majority of high-end boutiques devoting even the smallest corner to beauty and grooming, Modern Anthology is a fan of the sleek and subtle scents of the Australian skincare brand Aesop, but this is not what Modern Anthology is particularly known for. When it comes to grooming, their ideal customer seems to be a man who takes pride in his hair and in his beard: their shelves are stocked with texture paste and styling creme by Brooklyn-based brand Fellow Barber, while Baxter of California offers a wide array of pomades set to give hair texture and shape: their intensity ranges from “soft water” to “clay”. Babe of Brooklyn makes beard balms that comes in retro-inspired tin jars: their no.1 Bear Balm contains American Jojoba, cedar wood, un-refined shea butter, while no.2 adds palo santo, frankincense and organic beeswax, which gives it a more “earthy” profile.
Fragrance-wise, they champion the Brooklyn-based brand DS & Durga, the brainchild of musician David Seth Moltz and architect Kavi Ahuja: the brand became prominent for conjuring a romantic version of Americana, drawing inspiration from the South (“Mississippi Medicine”) and the West (“Cowboy Grass”) but now their influences range from a vision of Italian citruses to visions of India conjured by saffron, frangipani, and gardenia.
For its home decor, Modern Anthology skews towards mid-century-inspired furniture: they stock side chairs by Modernica Inc, which come with a fiberglass seat in accent, yet not bright, colors (think, a muted yellow, a light gray with blue undertones). Modern Anthology is one of the few places in the New York area to sell sofas by Stephen Kenn which are made with a wiry, minimalistic steel frame and full-grain leather upholstery, that manages to look both rough and elegant. This makes it a welcome addition to an office, in a loft or in a quaint brownstone.
The owners once described Modern Anthology as “If Wes Anderson had a retail shop, it would look like Modern Anthology.” Still, they have a more pared-down feel as Wes Anderson tends to use pattern and color combinations that may look good on camera but is likely to clash elsewhere. What’s more, where Anderson’s aesthetic is twee, Modern Anthology combines functionality and elegance with the occasional quirk accent. Would you expect, among their vaguely highbrow selection, to find a playing card deck devoted to the people of Twin Peaks?
123 Smith St, Brooklyn
NY 11201, USA