HISTORY OF DENIM THROUGH THE AGES | WESTERN WEAR GOES HOLLYWOOD

I was in 5th or 6th grade, 10 years old, when I started making my own money. I’d go with my Mom on the weekends to the restaurant where she was working at the time out at little ol’ Litchfield Airport in Arizona. The place was called Barnstorm Charlies. I’d bus tables there, re-stock, clean-up, help out in the kitchen– whatever they needed. It made me feel independent, and like I had something to offer the world. I worked hard and didn’t complain– I was proud to have a job, and wanted to be the best employee I could be.

With my hard-earned little fistful of cash, the first thing I remember buying was a pair of Levi’s 501s. I still recall heading to the local Smitty’s, going through the stacks of shrink-to-fits looking for my size, doing the shrinkage calculations printed on the Levi’s tag in my head, holding that dark, rigid denim in my hands– and feeling a wonderful inner glow that’s hard to explain. It was the birth of an intense Levi’s ritual that is still a part of my life.

The preamble is meant only to let you know that denim, Levi’s in particular, probably means more to me than it does to most people.  It may sound strange, but denim represents all that I consider to be good and of value in the world. It’s  pure, honest, unpretentious, reliable, hard-working, American tradition that gets better with age. It doesn’t get any better than that in my book. The story of denim is forever entwined with the story of America. It’s part of our heritage, and a genuine American Icon.

Jack Benny, Dick Powell, Ken Murray, Bing Crosby on drums, Shirley Ross.

Jack Benny, Dick Powell, Ken Murray, Bing Crosby (in head-to-toe denim) on drums, Shirley Ross. Tommy Dorsey is just out of sight on the right on the trombone. Amateur swing contest, ca. 1939.

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AUTO UNDERDOG AMC | WALLY BOOTH’S GROWLIN’ GREMLIN STREET CRED

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Wally Booth Press

AMC Pro Stock press for Wally Booth & his Gremlin X

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That’s right, it’s a Gremlin– without a doubt one, of the ugliest, least respected, aerodynamically-challenged cars ever produced on American soil.  Wisconsin-based AMC had never been known for beautiful design or muscle, and so their entry into the muscle car market in the 1970s was seen as a classic tale of– a day late & a  dollar short.  When AMC signed Wally Booth to head the AMC Pro Stock effort, despite that there were virtually no aftermarket components for AMG engines, he and engine-building partner Dick Arons transformed the brand’s staid grocery-getter reputation from the ground up into that of a genuine performance powerhouse– all from scratch.  Needless to say, everyone on the racing scene quickly took notice, as the red-headed stepchild to America’s “Big Three” automakers worked tirelessly with the little they had, and started to kick some serious tail.

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wally_booth_gremlin_launching_2.JPG

Wally Booth's Gremlin X

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THE TSY FASHION FLASHBACK | AMERICAN MENSWEAR DESIGNER ICONS

Ralph_Lauren 1970s

The Coty (American Fashion Critics’) Awards first officially acknowledged excellence in menswear design back in 1970, with the honor going to none other than Ralph Lauren.  It signaled a new designer age in American menswear. True men’s fashion icons emerged and soon became household names – Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Alexander Julian — all went on to become institutions that inspire, influence, and in the case of Ralph, still strongly lead to this day. It’s a time in menswear that I’m unapologetically nostalgic over, having largely missed it– but I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a few legends of that golden age, and never miss an opportunity to mine them for all the nuggets I can get.

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American fashion icon Ralph Lauren working in his office --1971.

American fashion icon Ralph Lauren working in his office, 1971.

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Back in the early 70s, Jeffrey Banks (now a legendary fashion designer in his own right) was hand-plucked from Britches of Georgetown by Ralph Lauren personally, and came to work for him as a part-time design assistant.  Part-time because Jeffrey was still in high school. Jeffrey shared a story with me of when he had to get a shipment of hot-selling shirts over to Bloomies quick– Ralph’s orders. Time was tight, and Jeffrey was getting the runaround from receiving department at the store– so he decides to cast store policy aside and brazenly walked through the front doors of Bloomingdale’s 59th Street, both arms bursting with shirts for the Polo shop, much to the chagrin (read: screams) of the operations staff at the store. Here are your shirts, have a great weekend.  Love it.

Sometimes rules are for schmucks and you simply have to take matters into your own hands. Ralph certainly didn’t get where his is today by politely following the rules, he led. See, when you work for Ralph, you quickly realize that you’re a part of something much bigger than yourself, and there’s this incredible power of the brand behind you moving mountains out of your way. It’s a pretty awesome thing really.

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Ralph Lauren checking out the Polo boutique at Bloomingdale's  --1971.

Ralph Lauren checking out the Polo boutique at Bloomingdale’s, 1971.

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Summertime Separation Anxiety | Living Without Boots

In all honesty, Summertime is not my favorite time of the year for several reasons.  

First off, extreme sun is not my friend.  I just wasn’t built for it.  I’m Irish (read: fair) with skin that burns like nobody’s business.  It ain’t pretty.  

Secondly, I prefer Winter dressing over Summer slacking– always have.  What can I say, I’m just not a shorts and flip-flops kinda guy.  

My lust is for layers of patinated denim, old worn-in oilcloth, chunky woolens, beaten & abused leather jackets, belts and boots.  So come Summertime, I hold on to wearing my favorite boots, jeans and jackets for as long as I can– before it’s just too darn hot.  I usually make it to July, then come back in September. What do I trade ‘em in for?  Clarks suede desert Chukkas, what else?  Maybe a Chuck or Jack Purcell here and there on the down low.  Might even breakdown and get crazy with some sandal action on the side– when my guard is down and it’s just us chickens, that is.  

And in all seriousness guys– listen up, and never wear flip-flops or sandals on the job.  Your co-workers (especially the ladies) should never have to be exposed to the sight of your messed-up cheetoes.  Keep ‘em under wraps, bro.  Please.      

 

An old worn-in pair of Chippewa Engineer boots and an arsenal of vintage Levi's 501s, with a helping of RRL thrown in for good measure.

An old worn-in pair of Chippewa Engineer boots and an arsenal of Levi's 501s and RRL denim thrown in for good measure. Had the Chippewa Engineers for about 10 yrs now-- you can't buy what can only come with time.

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THE 13 REBELS MOTORCYCLE CLUB | 1953’s “THE WILD ONE” INSPIRATION

13 Rebels MC member Arden Van Scykle

13 Rebels MC member Ardin Van Syckle. We’re talkin’ standup guys, not hoodlums– former flyers and servicemen in WWII looking to keep the rush alive. They were solid citizens who loved the sport and brotherhood of riding– accomplished racers, builders and all-around honorable men.

1953’s iconic biker flick The Wild One starring Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin, was loosely based on two actual California motorcycle clubs of the day having a highly charged clash in the small town of Hollister, CA.  Brando portrayed 13 Rebels leader Shell Thuet, while Lee Marvin’s character “Chino” was based on “Wino Willie” Forkner of The Boozefighters.  Fact is– the gangs were not rivals (although “Wino Wilie” was an ex-member of the 13 Rebels– asked to leave actually for rowdy behavior) and the Hollister incident never happened, at least not to the extent that LIFE magazine or The Wild One portrayed it.  Yeah, some guys drank and drag raced a little– it happens.  What else happened was a counterculture was born– rolled Levi 501 jeans, boots and leathers (Hello Schott Perfecto!) became the uniform that rebels and bikers lived in, and that polite society demonized.

LIFE magazine's infamous 1947 photo that fueled the Hollister biker stories and legends.

LIFE magazine’s infamous 1947 staged photo that fueled the Hollister biker stories and legends.

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Too Much Girl On Guy Action For My Taste | Will The Real Men Please Stand Up?

 

menswear fashion scarfmenswear fashion scarf 

Call me old-fashioned if you will, but I am so over the whole skinny jean, silly scarf, everything super-tight & femme look.  I for one, have never succumbed to wearing one of those gauzy chick scarves, and it goes without saying that I’ll never even consider wearing women’s jeans– especially if some so-called “rock hipsters” say they fit better.  Dude, what fit are you going for– “tweener at the mall” fit?  Seriously– grow a set, get a tailor and stay out of the Junior’s department.  

I’m so bad, I even have a hard time with wearing clothes by women designers. Yeah, I’m old school, but my admittedly rigid train of thought is as follows–

generally speaking, a guy inherently knows guy’s stuff better than women do.  

Like I’d rather have a guy cut my hair than a girl, but it works conversely too– I’d rather have a woman help me if I’m shopping for my wife.  I know the world is more sophisticated than that, but that’s just how I roll– and honestly, it has served me pretty well.

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“IVY LEAGUE TODAY” 1975 | VINTAGE RALPH LAUREN POLO

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Heavy Tweed Jacket has one of the most amazing archives of vintage Ivy menswear publications, catalogs, etc. anywhere. Hands down.  It’s a daily read for inspiration, education & nostalgia.  Last week HTJ ran an amazing vintage spread on Ivy Today – 1975 via “Men’s Club” magazine. The pics are truly priceless– including a great ad for the then relatively young brand, Polo Ralph Lauren (est. 1967).

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men's club magazine 6-1975

Vintage 1975 Polo Ralph Lauren ad

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A young Ralph Lauren, via Men's Club 1975

A young Ralph Lauren, via Men's Club 1975

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LEVI’S 501 DAY | CUTTING FROM A GREENER DENIM CLOTH

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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…

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levi strauss levi's 501 jean

The iconic Levi's shrink-to-fit 501 jean

 

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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.

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denim prospecters miners


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The Fashion Eye of the Rising Sun | STYLE from TOKYO

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–

style from tokyo

at the exhibition...showroom MAGNUM

He’s designer of ‘HIROSHI TSUBOUCHI’.
So kindly gentleman,I really like him!

Thank you so much showroom MAGNUM.

 

style from tokyo

on the street ,harajyuku

Thay are student of collage of photograph.

I love this big smile!

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Abercrombie & Fitch | Losing their Pants & Cool at the Mall

Abercrombie & Fitch

 

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.

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