The Real McCoy’s – History, Philosophy, and Iconic Products
Passion, obsession, and zero compromises, The Real McCoy’s is a Japanese clothing label that’s built a well-earned reputation for their meticulous reproductions of vintage clothing. For over 20 years, The Real McCoy’s has been a covetable brand for vintage-fans old and new, with their reproductions of American militaria, sportswear, workwear, and even some dress wear from the early twentieth century, each piece exceeding expectations on all levels.
The History of The Real McCoy’s
The Real McCoy’s founder, Hitoshi Tsujimoto, hails from Japan, but has been in the American vintage clothing game for nearly 40 years. In 1978, he took a forty-day road trip through the USA and returned to Japan with a trunk load of vintage sweatshirts, jeans, and other garments. He went on to sell these garments at a swap meet in Osaka, and within the next few years, he was operating under the name ‘NYLON,’ as a well-respected collector and buyer of vintage clothing.
After opening his first brick-and-mortar store in the mid-1980s, it was clear that there was a strong thirst in Japan for vintage clothing — especially vintage American clothing. With a business foundation firmly built and an encyclopedic knowledge of all things vintage, Tsujimoto founded The Real McCoy’s in the early 2000s as a way to reproduce those coveted, rare vintage garments better than they ever were before.
The Real McCoy’s Philosophy
The brand’s name itself sums up Tsujimoto’s objective: to label something as the “Real McCoy” is to say it is the legitimate, genuine article, and that’s exactly what The Real McCoy’s aims for when creating their reproduction garments, accessories, and footwear.
In their pursuit, The Real McCoy’s go above and beyond the call of duty, procuring the most luxurious materials and making absolutely no compromises when it comes to the design, fit, construction, and finishing of each piece.
For example, A-2 leather bomber jackets of the ’30s and ’40s were typically made of horsehide. For the production of their leather A-2 (a piece that takes no less than two months to be handcrafted by a small production team in Kobe, Japan), The Real McCoy’s imports horsehides from Poland due to their high quality and characteristics, just to drive the point home.
And that’s just one example of how The Real McCoy’s does things differently. Essentially, they make exaggerated reproductions of vintage garments, the exaggeration coming mostly in the form of a standard of quality that trumps anything, now or then. And to achieve this, they custom-make each piece in Japan with highly skilled sewers, clickers, and finishers. Some might argue that the use of meticulous production and design techniques strays from the original specifications of these once staple, utilitarian garments, but it’s these extra ounces of care and passion that help set The Real McCoy’s apart.
The Real McCoy’s Today
The Real McCoy’s has become much more than a fan-favorite amongst vintage enthusiasts. The label has a fleet of brick-and-mortar locations in Japan, as well as an outpost in the outskirts of London’s stylish Covent Garden area, which is home to U.K. vintage store Rokit, and Nigel Cabourn’s Army Gym store.
Annually, in partnership with Lightning Magazine, The Real McCoy’s publishes a yearbook showcasing all of their products. These yearbooks have become collectables in their own right and older publications can fetch good money.
The Four Sub-Labels of The Real McCoy’s
The Real McCoy’s Mainline
The brand is split into four sub-labels, with each one focussing on a different aesthetic. There is, of course, The Real McCoy’s line, which can essentially be described as their ‘mainline’ and it primarily covers the brand’s military and workwear based garments. In this collection, you’ll find items inspired by ’40s and ’50s American fashion, like horsehide leather bombers, CPO shirts, and raw denim jeans and jackets. There are even a few sportswear garments, like loopwheeled sweatshirts, in the mix.
Buco was a heritage leather company — famed for their biker-style leather jackets — founded by Joseph Buegeleisen in the mid-1930s. In recent years, however, The Real McCoy’s bought the rights to Buco, and now uses the Buco Label to distribute the iconic J-series leather jackets and other garments and accessories inspired by motorcycle culture.
The Joe McCoy line is The Real McCoy’s western Americana-worship label, named after famous American nineteenth-century entrepreneur, Joseph “Cowboy” McCoy. Predominantly made up of sportswear garments like loopwheeled sweats and twill chinos, Joe McCoy also includes welted boots and workwear pieces like raw denim jackets and overalls.
The Double Diamond label focusses on the reproduction of work- and dress-wear from the early twentieth century. As The Real McCoy’s smartest line of clothing, Double Diamond collections are typically made up of henleys, chambrays, blazers and other turn-of-the-century pieces.
The Real McCoy’s N-1 Deck Jacket
Along with the peacoat, the deck jacket sits at the summit of U.S. Navy classics (read our history of the garment here). Originally designed for the harshest of cold weather conditions out at sea, The Real McCoy’s produced their rendition to the highest possible specifications.
It comes constructed from durable crossgrain cotton, is lined with ultra-warm, double-faced alpaca fleece, and it’s finished with two slashed hand-warmer pockets, a ’40s-style bell-shaped Talon zipper, and an alpaca collar. In a minimalist turn, The Real McCoy’s opted to leave out the archetypal U.S.N. stencil — which usually is placed on the chest — in favor of a simple, plain design.
Available for $759 at The Real McCoy’s.
Buco J-22 Leather Jacket
After the acquisition of Buco, The Real McCoy’s began reproducing the brand’s heritage leather jackets to their own high standards. Take the J-22 Horsehide Leather Jacket, for example, which is the classic design that features the famous asymmetrical zipper and buckle belt at the waist. Made from tough, vegetable-tanned horsehide, it’s finished with a houndstooth-print wool lining, and gold Talon zipper closures throughout.
Available for $2,357 at The Real McCoy’s.
Lot. 003 Jeans
Amongst all of The Real McCoy’s outstanding repro pieces are, of course, five-pocket raw denim jeans. Their staple jean is the Lot. 003, based on the Levi’s 501 cut that was circulating in the late 1940s. With a straight leg, high rise, and wide hem-opening, the Lot. 003 is constructed from 14.3oz. sanforized Japanese selvedge denim, and finished with chainstitched hems and copper rivets — hidden on the rear pockets — and a custom deerskin leather patch featuring two tanks pulling the jeans apart ala Levi’s.
Available for $332 at The Real McCoy’s.
Joe McCoy Ball Park Sweatshirt
One of The Real McCoy’s most accessible products, the sinker weave knit sweatshirts from the Joe McCoy line are about as classic as you can get. Made exclusively for the label in Wakayama, Japan, these sweatshirts are built on vintage sewing machines and feature a ribbed crew neckline with inset ‘V’ neck detailing. Designed to sit at the waistline, the Joe McCoy sweat will compliment any vintage-styled outfit like butter does bread.
Available at for $180 at The Real McCoy’s.
The Real McCoy’s – The Final Say
If you’re looking for authentic reproductions of twentieth-century workwear, military wear, and sportswear, The Real McCoy’s really is the gold standard. Driven by an obsession with quality and accuracy to period details, you can be guaranteed anything from bearing the McCoy’s name will be as good or likely better than any of the real vintage garments that inspired it.
Update: An amendment was made to a previous version of this piece which stated incorrectly that the horsehides used for the production of The Real McCoy’s’ A-2 jackets were bred specifically by the brand.