Royal Family of Fashion

Hy’s Toggery reflects three generations of style

Michael Booini

Gary Wakstein inherited appreciation of fashion from his father, Hy Wakstein, and keeps his sense of style contemporary, thanks in part to younger members of the family.

While shopping in Panama City Beach’s Pier Park, you will no doubt be drawn to an establishment called Hy’s Toggery. Hy’s has family roots going back to 1969, when Hy Wakstein, a World War II veteran, set up shop.

Carrying on his father’s legacy, Gary Wakstein currently operates Bay County’s oldest family-owned clothing store, where sporty meets splendor.

“He was the fashion icon of our world,” Wakstein says of his late father. “He led by example. What he wore, the way he wore it … his taste was exceptional. We have these pictures of ›› him from the ’30s and ’40s, where he grew up in New York, and he always looked like he had just stepped out of a fashion magazine.” 

The generational experience is perhaps the most rewarding part of running the business. With two sons — the youngest of which helps Wakstein run the store — and three grandchildren, Wakstein is grateful to have his family succeed him, just as he succeeded his father. After all, younger generations influence the ever-changing merchandise of Hy’s Toggery and are responsible for shaping Wakstein’s own sense of style.

“I was accused of sleeping in a suit and tie for about 30 years,” says Wakstein. “We got our start selling three-piece suits. And we still do — only that’s come to mean Bermuda shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops. We’ve reinvented ourselves throughout the years, and it’s nice to wear what you sell. My son has been helpful in teaching me how to dress more leisurely.”

This has cemented Wakstein’s personal fashion philosophy of embracing evolution and being adaptable in terms of brand and style. For his interview with Emerald Coast Magazine, he wears a pastel, button-up shirt made from a fabric that resembles cotton, but is, in fact, a “performance fabric” that is impervious to wrinkles and stretches easily to accommodate most body types.

“There’s so much technology going into clothes now, like SPF features and shirts that come out of the dryer looking like they’ve been pressed. It’s comfortable for me and gets me to try new things, but it also demonstrates valid brands that people respond to.”

The response has been so overwhelmingly positive that Wakstein is opening a second location of his business in Daytona Beach, set to debut in April of 2018.

“I wear our products because it’s my job to determine the fit and style that will make people the most confident. Making them happy — that’s what matters.”

Gary Wakstein’s closet ‘must-haves’

Gary Wakstein lives for comfort and class. These are the top items 
that won’t be leaving his closet any time soon.

  • Vineyard Vine shorts and shirts in bright, coastal colors
  • Aftco Fishing Apparel, a staple for boats and parties
  • Ventilated Patagonia hats
  • Fish Hippie light-weight, stretch polos
  • Colombia Blood and Guts shirts, which are pre-treated with a stain blocker
  • Olukai Flip-flops, which have a molded arch support
  • Costa Sunglasses, which are the top lenses and styles on the sunglass market

All available at Hy’s Toggery 700 Pier Park Drive, Panama City Beach; Open Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; and Sunday, 12 noon–7 p.m. For more information, call (850) 235-1177 or visit

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