Just Opened: Freemans Sporting Club

The new store and barbershop on Freemans Alley gives men's classics a new point of view. By Jonathan Forgang
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Usually the best stores are the ones where the shop owner's point of view is immediately discernable the moment you step inside. Taavo Somer's newly opened Freemans Sporting Club, which he runs with business partner William Tigerrt, is just that kind of store.
Located at the entrance of an alley only steps from Tigerrt and Somer's always-jammed restaurant Freemans, the shop seems a world away from its Lower East Side environs. The idea is to feel transported to a rural sportsman's shop of the 1920s—and you do. Aged wood and seemingly random vintage objects dominate the space. A closer look reveals that many of the items are new and for sale, they just look like something from another era. For instance, the all-leather Brooks bicycle saddles and tool kits are the only bike accessories in the store, but they fit in with another overarcing theme of the store—quality and old-world craftsmanship.
Inevitably, the store is a paradise for the discerning gentleman peruser. The Le Chameau wellies, natural rubber boots handcrafted in Normandy and lined in leather, as well as the Quoddy boots and moccasins, handmade in Maine by six master moccasin-makers, are great discoveries nearly impossible to find anywhere else.
Somer's own line of ready-to-wear suits (the centerpiece of the store) are every bit as painstakingly made as the rest of the merchandise. Fashioned from vintage deadstock wool in three different styles—Slim, Standard, and Three Piece—these beautifully constructed suits come in a handsome fall palette of herringbone and flannel with touches like the transparent gauze lining that shows off the needlework. "It's kind of like when Swiss architects leave a building's insides exposed," explains Somer, who left a job at an architecture firm after starting his T-shirt design business five years ago.
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Those same vintage-inspired T-shirts are available at the store, now adorned with ornately drawn graphics. The handmade dress shirts are exceptional as well, carried in five different styles and impeccably sewn with the inside of the garment as finished as the outside. "I had one tailor come into the store who was really impressed with the quality of our shirts," Somer says. "He pointed out that the pattern on the body of the shirt matched the pattern on the sleeves and told me it was the mark of a well-crafted shirt." One of our favorites is the green wool workshirt, lined in soft Bemberg cotton.
The store works as a venue for Somer to indulge all of his eclectic tastes, from the used Foxfire outdoorsmen books he has for sale to the John Derian-designed plates accented with images of British prizefighters. But all of this comprises only half of the space: The rest is dominated by a tiled barbershop seemingly lifted straight from the turn of the century. The facility, a joint venture with Sam Buffa, staffs three full-time barbers and offers everything from haircuts to shaves and beard trimming.
For sale in the barbershop they offer D.R. Harris and Trumper's grooming products, rarities on this side of the Atlantic—but right at home here.
8 Rivington Street between Bowery and Chrystie Street, at Freeman Alley, 212-673-3209; or go to www.freemanssportingclub.com
The new store and barbershop on Freemans Alley gives men's classics a new point of view.
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