Klaxon Howl, the former Queen St. West resident, may not position itself as an exclusive brand, but you need to know where to look if you want to shop through the store's selection of hard-wear men's fashion.
Hidden down an alley north of Manning and Queen, it does not surprise me that I am one of two men browsing. It also does not shock me that my fellow man is a regular Klaxon shopper. Entering the space reminds me of an old cabin, filled with the aroma of leather and vintage - this is a store for the every man, whether true or part of a shallower form of hipster irony.
Klaxon Howl is hidden, not because it caters to a limited population of haute workmen, but because the company has proven to foster relationships with its once Queen St. clientele. This showed in an employee's one-on-one helpful service, offering suggestions and alternatives, rather than fishing for a big sale.
That being said, obtaining a big sale is no difficult task.
A naval-inspired watchman's knit cap is forty dollars and can be yours in scarlet red, Oxford grey and black. This will serve you well if you are catching the wave of nautical-inspired fashions seen everywhere from Old Navy to Holt Renfrew. However, it is completely impractical and borders on foolish, given the humidity our fair city has been experiencing lately. Maybe you could opt in, if only as an early winter purchase, or if you are really looking to complete your look from head to toe, go for it -- but beware of heat stroke.
Klaxon Howl is a unique store, in that its stock includes 30% vintage items, ranging from boots to jackets. I spotted a lightweight 1960s Canadian hooded zip up in red that looked great for spring or a cool summer night. At $120, the price seems high, but it is a one of a kind item, so if you are looking for something unique, it is a great addition to your wardrobe.
Klaxon Howl is home to a private house label, but given its vintage aesthetic, the line between what is and what is not old-to-be-new-again blurred. I was shocked to discover that a wool and leather club jacket was $568 -- an update on a classic jacket, it is designed with pockets, much-like a utility vest along the bodice with leather sleeves to reference its humbler beginnings (it is, after all, a club jacket). Alternately, a house-brand "Heritage" navy poplin button up ($159) is well-tailored, rich in colour and is a staple that I can see getting a lot of wear.
Chambray had a great presence in an assortment of colours, ranging from a stock indigo blue to a magenta-like hue. It is this unique colouration that warrants a price tag ranging from $159-$169. Klaxon Howl is offering the market -- one so rich in chambray, already -- something that hasn't been explored in Toronto: a colourful twist on a heritage classic, just in time for summer.
Overall, Klaxon Howl boasts a wide range of workman pieces, ranging from flannel shirts, to heavy leather lace-up boots. It is the kind of store you need to go to, just to try on some decidedly masculine staples. Modern dandies may be disappointed, but if you are looking for work wear inspiration without the boxy fit of Mark's Work Wearhouse, then Klaxon Howl will surprise and delight.
Hours: Tuesday by appointment, Wednesday to Saturday noon to 7 pm, Sunday noon to 6 pm.
Writing by Kevin Naulls. Photos by Jason Tavares.