If you had to pick just one article of clothing to represent pure American style– what would it be? For me it would without a doubt be the Levi’s 501 jean without a doubt. It embodies so much of this great country’s heritage– from tough prospecting roots, to a symbol of 1950′s teenage rebellion and everything in between– it’s a staple of everyday life, and at the same time a firmly established fashion icon that still inspires designers here and abroad.
Buying a new pair of 501′s has long been a ritual of love for me. Going through the stack, looking for little signs that will lead me to the perfect pair– side belt loops stitched directly to the back-yoke seam, side seam spread wide to provide great wear ‘tracks’ down the road, maybe even a little hint of leg twist already apparent…
The iconic Levi's shrink-to-fit 501 jean
To celebrate this year’s 501 Day (on May 1st of every year) Levi’s is launching an organic update of the classic 1947 501 jean. It’s a reflection of their ongoing commitment to move towards more humane and environmental practices for their workers and the planet.
From the San francisco Business Times–
For the world’s oldest and most iconic jeans maker, going green is about more than doing what’s right.
“In one way, it’s a matter of survival as a company,” said Michael Kobori, vice president of supply chain, social and environmental sustainability at Levi.
I keep pretty regular tabs on STYLE from Tokyo just to see what is going on with the everyday Japanese street scene. Every so often you’ll see some pretty amazing interpretations of Americana & Ivy looks, with the added bonus of just crazy-arse fashionistos who let it all hang out. The added ESL captions (which I’ll include unedited) are charming and at times priceless, and can usually coax a much appreciated grin to my face– even on the worst of days. Heck, I know I couldn’t do any better translating to Japanese, so I give ‘em credit and respect for putting it out there.
Without further ado–
at the exhibition...showroom MAGNUM
He’s designer of ‘HIROSHI TSUBOUCHI’.
So kindly gentleman,I really like him!
Thank you so much showroom MAGNUM.
on the street ,harajyuku
Thay are student of collage of photograph.
I love this big smile!
This one really knocked my totally socks off.
Hey Shak– somethings you might need to do, but don’t talk about it.
I couldn’t believe their transparency on something so brand-negative. Anyone else smell blood? Up until now, no trip to Dallas ever felt complete without a walk through Stanley Korshak– one of the finest specialty retailers in the country. But why waste my time anymore– I’ll just go on eBay. Actually, the goods online appear to be a lot of fringe-sizes and odds & ends that they want to unload, but still.
I have to say, I am disappointed. In some ways this might seem like someone leveraging Ebay’s reach and ability to sell product– but more than anything it reeks of reactive versus proactive management and not weighing the long term costs to the brand vs. marginal short term gains.
Go online or go extinct? Admittedly this is not a business plan, this is being practical in tough times– but again, at what cost ultimately? I’m sure your luxury vendors are tickled to hear how you’re keeping the lights on these days.
Seems that Abercrombie & Fitch isn’t recession-proof either, as kids (and parents) are turning to ‘like’ brands at a price, and newer streetwear & fashion brands for more up-to-date looks. The Bruce Weber homoerotic photography and overpowering scents pumped through the store may have finally played itself out too. The store environment was so overdone it felt like a gay club, and Jeffries was stuck on an aesthetic that never evolved– it seems to have finally stagnated.
In terms of product & presentation, A&F is the epitome of a one trick pony with little innovation in product or presentation over the years– and the pony ride just might be over. Someone I knew used to say– “when you’re coasting, you’re actually going downhill,” and this seems to be the case with A&F–they’ve coasted for too long. American Eagle, Aeropostale, etc. are now eating their lunch as the kid who fell in love with A&F years ago has moved on, and the new kid has either traded down or is more forward.
Either way, they’re failing to see what all the fuss is about. Ironically, Hollister may also have added to the downfall through cannibalization– as the two brands are fairly interchangeable, with Hollister being sharper on price. A good recession exposes all your weaknesses, and A& F is feeling it hard.
My good buddy Jose Cuadra was hard at work with Lilly’s very talented team of Print & Pattern designers– Jeff Mattia, Victoria Davis and Paige Smith, creating a stunning visual masterpiece for Lilly Pulitzer’s latest store opening in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Jose and I worked together when I headed-up visual for Lilly, and let me tell you– Jose is not only one of the most talented visual merchants in the business, he’s also one of the all-around greatest guys going (BFF). At Lilly, the print department houses some of the best designers in the business– they are all truly artists that paint, sketch and create through heart & hand. They are not just click and drag CAD jockeys. What this inspiring team of artistic talent created is truly incredible. As Brad Bradbeer would say– “Go team!”
Sorry Antonio– this image is too good, I had to borrow it. The irony is incredible– “Live Beyond Your Means” on the window of a store that went under. Says a lot about the retail climate we’re experiencing.
There’s a lot of reactionary “strategy” in motion right now by apparel retailers & wholesalers who are desperately trying to stop the bleeding. Slash prices, cut inventory levels, homogenize the product, reduce the workforce, cut expenses, close stores– but what’s the long term answer? The industry is facing unprecedented times– but this didn’t happen overnight, and we only have ourselves to blame. The industry is finally paying the price for years of over-saturating the retail landscape with too many stores, an excess of irrelevant “me too” brands & products, and in many cases– undeservedly fat markups.
“The consumer is so well-informed today, they don’t want to be told how to buy and they feel conned and manipulated by big flagship stores, and by the disproportionate margins the brands are making,” Inacio Ribeiro said. “However, the consumer will welcome suggestions, and that is the way forward.”
Fashion’s reliance on ever-lower prices failed last fall, as sale signs shouting 60, 70 and 80 percent off attested. Value is making a comeback across the price spectrum. –WWD
In short– we got fat, lazy & greedy, as the consumer became more sophisticated and savvy. Now they are deciding with lethal force who will survive and who will die– and quite honestly, a lot of us deserve to die.
The bow tie is probably the most polarizing accessory in menswear. Guys tend to either love ‘em or hate ‘em. I say, if you want to wear them, you must be confident and know a few things right from the get go–
1.) Don’t think you’re being original– some say the bow tie is the most unoriginal attempt to be original. I’ve even heard them referred to as the nose-ring equivalent for conservatives– that one always gives me a chuckle.
2.) Don’t wear them often, or where you know you’ll be one of many donning a bow tie.
3.) Some guys will think you’re a pompous tool– the bow tie can be like wearing the middle finger around your neck. It just flat-out turns some people off.
4.) Some guys will think you’re a nerd or lightweight– think Pee Wee Herman or Orville Redenbacher.
5.) They look best when you’re well-layered. They bow tie can easily be underwhelming when there is a lot of shirt showing. A sweater or vest will nicely frame a bow tie and make it pop with more power.
Personally, I stay away from them. They just aren’t my flavor, and I have absolutely no desire to be known as that guy in the bow tie. The bow tie is something that to me, always feels better in a nostalgic “looking back” kind of way. I know guys that can definitely pull them off, but that guy isn’t me. We have to know our limits– I’m no Andre 3000.
Undoubtedly one of the most recognizable plaids in the world, the Burberry check, formally known as the Haymarket Check or Burberry Classic Check, was first introduced in 1924, and used in the lining of Burberry’s iconic trench coats– but there’s a lot more than the check to the Burberry story.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting London with the designer Jeffrey Banks, who (along with Doria De La Chapelle) wrote TARTAN Romancing the Plaid. While there, we visited the Burberry headquarters and were given a tour of their archives and in-house museum– which included Burberry coats owned by the Queen and exact replicas of garments they had made for Shackleton, who led the legendary 1914 expedition to cross Antarctica. The Burberry company history is simply amazing. Their many contributions to fabric & garment innovation that hugely benefited exploration endeavors and war-time efforts alike are mostly unknown to a lot of us, and deserve to be heralded.
Recently a certain reader took issue with my asserting the classic & indispensable style of the white shirt. And I quote–
“My God, How boring and predictable, a white shirt? Please… These rules are for men who don’t have a clue and just want to leave their house half decent without embarrassing themselves. This I don’t have a problem with, when it’s for convenience, comfort or not having to THINK at all about what to wear, but don’t confuse it with style.”
Huh… Montgomery Clift– seeking convenience and comfort? No, I don’t think so. Errol Flynn– on a quest for decency and concerned with not embarrassing himself? Somehow I don’t think he was all that worried about it, buddy. Maybe Johnny Depp appeals to you more? Bingo. White shirt.
So let’s set the record straight once and for all–
The white shirt is for guys, what the little black dress is for our lady friends. It is absolutely a style icon in itself, and it can provide the perfect backdrop for the expression of style by letting it’s accompanying accessories sing. Done.
I had the pleasure of meeting up with Lee Norwood and Antonio Ciongoli of the Rugby RL design team today, and got a sneak peek at the ’09 Holiday collection. Lee is a great guy that I first got to know back in my Polo days, and now he’s leading the design charge at Rugby with a very capable group of young talent. The product is very strong, and there’s an edginess that makes it more than just vintage collegiate/sportsman. There are lots of cool, subtle details that the pictures just don’t do justice–
Classic shot of writer Mickey Spillane in Levi 501 jeans.
Sometimes it is as simple as that- a white tee and a well-worn pair of jeans. Mickey Spillane isn’t trying too hard here– but sometimes we do. Let the jeans do the heavy-lifting. Keep them classic, but do be selective. I love a great old pair of Levi 501s with that classic leg twist and a lived-in personalized patina that can only come from wearing them in yourself. It’s all about making it your own– not buying it off the shelf. We’ve all probably seen guys ruin this look by over-thinking, over-accessorizing, over-shooting, over-posturing– what have you. White tee, blue jeans, belt optional, classic watch recommended, personality required.
K I S S– Keep it simple, stupid. A mantra that still works with just about anything. Like today– I was over-thinking what I would write. Well, sometimes it just is what it is, and if you force it– it becomes contrived. Today I feel like a white T and jeans. I’m learning to listen everyday and go with the flow a little more. When you’re obsessed with trying to control everything and everybody– you can leave a trail of brokenness and missed opportunity behind you.
Over the years, an obvious continental divide has existed in menswear between American, English & Italian style– but is it rapidly shrinking? Is global fashion largely replacing long-standing traditional dressing and style? Not all of it is intentional either. It’s also that a lot of guys just don’t know or care. How many fathers teach their sons how to dress properly? I think it’s safe to say that those conversations aren’t happening anymore. The home-fires seem to be burning out, as more and more guys are being swallowed up by the– shirt always untucked, nothing fits, nothing matters, can’t even stand up straight, I’m lucky to have even got out of the house dressed, square-toed shoe wearing, bad style fog.
The world is getting smaller everyday, that’s just a fact we have to live with. Fashion & media influences now move at break-neck speed, and it seems like a lot of cultural flavor & integrity is in danger of getting lost, as we all seem to be moving largely in the same direction. More than ever, product is finding it’s way into brands where it doesn’t belong– even classic brands that in the past were very diligent in regard to their positioning, are getting loose. Ironically, even a lot of the “brand heritage” reissues that are all the rage, seem to reflect today’s fashion interpretation of heritage, rather than actual history itself– because “heritage” is a buzz word that sells right now.
In short, product homogenization and co-opting is openly happening worldwide, and at an alarming rate. I’m not saying it’s all bad– a healthy chunk of classic American style that we know and love today was actually borrowed from somewhere else. The Japanese in turn have swallowed up American and English style (and are moving on to the Italians). American hipsters are looking at the Japanese for how to look, well, American. Not surprising– the Japanese are good at taking our toys and making them better. The whole thing is getting a little too convoluted these days for my taste.
Everything is moving so fast– how much thought is being given to the long-term? –By anyone?
Brands need to mind the shop, not just the register– or we’re going to end up with a big, tasteless stew.
If you’re a Jim Collins’ fan, maybe you got the “built to last” reference. He’s featured in the April 2009 issue of Inc. magazine, and as always, has some great insights. Like his observation that about every 20-30 years there is a major development in the evolution of business that we become aware of only in retrospect.
Here’s his major observations on the last 100 years or so–
- Around the turn of the last century, business corporations emerge as the building block of modern society. Sounds obvious enough, right? Yes– but how many people living in that moment recognized the revolution that was unfolding right in front of them?
- From the 1920s to ’40s, management emerged as the fundamental function and discipline in society. We were becoming a society in which management would be one of the central, important professions– like practicing medicine or law.
- After WWII comes another big development: work can be broken down into segments and reassembled in ways dramatically increasing both performance and humanity.
- During the 1980s, the idea of the entrepreneur shifts from “those crazy, creative people” to a profession, as people start to realize that it’s not about temperament or personality, but about action. We embrace the idea that entrepreneurship is actually a systematic, replicable process.
By this point you’re no doubt wondering– what does any of this have to do with Patagonia, you nerd?
I stumbled across some pics taken for the 1972 Spring fashion shoot, which to me are very cool and perfectly capture the timelessness of Ralph Lauren. I love the little old-school, typed write-up as well.
Thanks to the gent at Styleforum for the post (back in 2007).
Having worked at Polo Ralph Lauren from 1997-2001, I am filled with great memories of all the incredibly talented people, the magic of the 650 Madison offices, and most of all– the power of the brand. Never before or since have I even come close to experiencing anything like it. When you work for Ralph, you’re definitely part of something much bigger than yourself. And it’s very true what they say– working for Ralph is like attending Polo University. It trains your eye and taste level like no other place, and is considered the one of best “finishing schools” in the industry. Just be strong enough to maintain your own sense of individuality and point of view–
If everyone has the same exact tastes & opinions– someone is obsolete.
I stumbled across this old May 14th, 2002 WWD Milestones issue that celebrates Ralph Lauren’s history, career & contributions– and thoroughly enjoyed the little trip down memory lane. At the time that it came out I had a much different reaction though. It was not long after I had left Ralph and still struggling with whether I had done the right thing or not– seeing this larger-than-life article was like a punch in the stomach. I remember thinking– what did I do. Life is good, I’m happy, can’t complain. But I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I had never left. No regrets though. I strongly believe everything happens for a reason, and I truly appreciate all the experiences that I’ve had and the people I’ve worked with– and there’s a lot of good stuff still ahead.
If you’re a fan of classic menswear style like I am, Properly Askew is a must. Eloquently written by a guy who knows his stuff inside out, it’s chock-full of fascinating and insightful gems like–
“Leading men of Hollywood and the silver screen have played a starring role in defining style and elegance in America and Europe through the decades… Cary Grant’s head size was immense. Fred Astaire was the original thin man. John Wayne was somewhat barrel-chested, even as a lad. Elegant as they may have been, the physiques of these Hollywood icons were less than perfect, yet one would never know it from the way they looked in their clothes.”