THE LEATHER BOYS, 1964 | THE ACE CAFE, LOVE TRIANGLE, MOTORCYCLES, MORRISSEY & MORE

It was great being a part of 1st Annual NYC Motorcycle Film Festival in Brooklyn last week. Lots of great films and filmmakers were exposed to fresh eyes hungry for inspiring motorcycle art, culture, and history on the screen. An interesting after-film Q & A brought up a seminal motorcycle film of the 1960s, “The Leather Boys”, not just necessarily for the striking “Ton-Up Boys” and bikes– actually more for it’s place in history for being the first British film to be rated ‘X’ for having homosexual themes than actual nudity of a graphic nature,  per se.

I was first exposed to “The Leather Boys” as a teenage fan of The Smiths (it was a very influential and transforming film for Morrissey, and many young gay men in England). Clips and images of the film and it’s stars were used in The Smiths’ video “Girlfriend in a Coma” and their single, “William, It Was Really Nothing.” In a 1988 NME interview at the Cadogan Hotel (where Oscar Wilde was arrested), Morrissey even said, “I’m almost quite speechless now, it’s a very historic place and obviously it means a great deal to me… to be sitting here staring at Oscar’s television and the very video that Oscar watched “The Leather Boys on.” (The ‘Oscar’s television’ comment, obviously an impossibility, is Moz being snarky and insulting the intelligence of the NME  reporter…) Hearing “The Leather Boys” being referenced all these years later by filmmaker Eric Tretbar (Girl Meets Bike), and Paul d’Orleans of The Vintagent made me want to take a closer look at the historical influence of “The Leather Boys”, of which there is several layers.

THE LEATHER BOYS MOVIE FILM 1964

Rita Tushingham and Colin Campbell in the iconic British film, “The Leather Boys”, 1964.

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FRANCE’S FAIREST EXPORT– FRANCOISE HARDY | IMMORTAL BELOVED STYLE & MUSIC MUSE

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Francoise Hardy on the ‘Grand Prix’ set seen wearing co-star James Garner’s helmet, 1966.

Francoise Hardy was a wistful breath of fresh air during the sex, drugs & rock ‘n’ roll of the 1960s. Mysterious, sweetly naive, and utterly desirable. She was adored by Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, and more. The incredible enduring images of Hardy, particularly those by famed photographer Jean-Marie Perier (who shot her donned in Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Andre Courréges, and Paco Rabanne), made her an instant and timeless style icon. With her faraway gaze and lazy smile, Francoise Hardy is like a melancholy dream that you simply don’t want to wake up from. Her unease with fame and adoration is at times clearly evident in her photos– serving only to make her even more alluring.

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ZIGGY STARDUST | YOU’RE JUST A GIRL… WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT MAKEUP?

david bowie aladdin sane ziggy stardust

Brian Duffy photograph of David Bowie for the Aladdin Sane album cover, 1973. “Bowie’s sixth studio album marked the birth of the ‘schizophrenic’ character Aladdin Sane who was a development of the space-age Japanese-influenced Ziggy Stardust. To create the compelling album cover image, Bowie collaborated with photographer Brian Duffy and make-up artist Pierre Laroche. The result was one of the most recognizable images in popular culture– a ‘lightning flash’ design which has been reproduced in multiple forms world-wide.” via

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Look, there are those that revere Bowie as an ahead-of-his-time visionary who revolutionized Rock ‘n’ Roll. And there are those who see him very black & white, as a plodding opportunist who coldly studied what was happening around him (heavily borrowing from  true innovators at the time like Marc Bolan), and then expertly went about merchandising himself for mass commercial consumption. Both are fucking true. Bowie is an epic genius who learned through years of toil, trial, and error how to create a magical out-of-this-world persona and artistically sell it to us on a silver platter. No one has done it better in recent memory, and it’s unlikely that anyone in our lifetime will top him. Period. End of story.

There’s an incredible account by Glenn O’Brien in the recent issue of Out Magazine. Gay or straight, get over it, go buy it, and devour the entire spread on David Bowie. It is brilliant. You can read a chunk of it here after the jump. Now go– oh, you pretty things.

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“David Bowie (AKA Ziggy Stardust) wearing a sensational creation by Kansai Yamamoto. Born in Yokohama in 1944, the Japanese fashion designer was only 27 when he held his first international fashion show in London in 1971. The Japanese division of RCA records made MainMan aware of Yamamoto’s work and Bowie purchased the “woodlands animal costume” from Kansai’s London boutique– which he wore at the Rainbow Concert in August 1972 and which was later remade by Natasha Korniloff. Bowie subsequently viewed a video of a rock/fashion show that Kansai had staged in Japan the previous year and reportedly loved the costumes which were a combination of modern sci-fi and classical Kabuki theatre. Kansai and Bowie met in New York where he gifted Bowie two costumes during the 2nd US Tour. Kansai was then commissioned to create nine more costumes based on traditional Japanese Noh dramas for Bowie to pick up in Tokyo in April 1973. These were the flamboyant androgynous Ziggy Stardust costumes Bowie wore on the 3rd UK tour in 1973.” via The Ziggy Stardust Companion –photo by Masayoshi Sukita, the David Bowie archive

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David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust –photo by Mick Rock via

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WILD AT HEART– VOGUE 1991 | THE EPIC PHOTOGRAPHY OF PETER LINDBERGH

In 1991, photographer Peter Lindbergh shot the elite eight of the world’s sexiest Supermodels in Brooklyn, NY for the September 1991 issue of American Vogue– Cindy Crawford, Tatjana Patitz, Helena Christensen, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Karen Mulder, and Stephanie Seymour. The shoot titled “Wild at Heart” was styled by Grace Coddington, featuring looks that were a hi-lo mix of Chanel meets Schott– and we in the fashion world have never been the same since. This iconic editorial spread continues to inspire and awe to this day– over 20 years+ later. The Brit bikes featured throughout really make this work– several Triumphs, and I think I even spied a BSA in there as well!

The 1990s was the decade of the Supermodel– Cindy Crawford, Tatjana Patitz, Helena Christensen, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Karen Mulder, and Stephanie Seymour. This shot was titled “The Wild Ones” with the original selling at auction a few years ago for close to $35,000 –Image by © Peter Lindbergh

Supermodel Helena Christensen channeling “The Wild One” and striking a very Marlon Brando-esque pose in her Erez leather jacket and Harley-Davidson leather biker cap –Image by © Peter Lindbergh

Marlon Brando as Johnny in the Iconic motorcycle film “The Wild One” which simultaneously thrust biking forward into the limelight in terms of popularity and style, while setting it back in terms of stereotypes and the court of public opinion. Marlon Brando rode his own 1950 Thunderbird in the film– a big boost for Triumph motorcycles. You can read more about that here.

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VINTAGE MENSWEAR | A COLLECTION FROM THE VINTAGE SHOWROOM’S BOOK

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I was pretty stoked when Doug Gunn sent me a copy of — Vintage Menswear — A Collection from the Vintage Showroom — as I’ve long been an admirer. Being in the menswear trade myself, London has always been a favorite stop for inspiration, and there’s no better place to be inspired than The Vintage Showroom. The collection is insane and beautifully presented, covering everything from academia, sporting, hunting, motoring, military wear, workwear, denim– it’s no surprise that they are one of the most complete and prestigious vintage dealers in the world. Of special interest to me are all things related to motoring as you see below including vintage leathers, Barbour, Belstaff, etc., and all the great snippets of the history, construction, and function behind the pieces.

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CHAMPION CAR CLUB JACKET, 1950s– “This is a simple, zip-up cotton jacket with fish-eye buttons at the cuffs and a short collar. What it signifies, however, is so much more. The hand-embroidered, chain-stitched imagery on its back places it squarely in the 1950s, at the height of the hot-rodding craze in the US. Hot-rodding was said to have been driven by young men returning from service abroad after World War II who had technical knowledge, time on their hands, and the habit of spending long days in male, if not macho, company. Rebuilding and boosting cars for feats of both spectacle and speed — often 1930s Ford Model Ts, As and Bs, stripped of extraneous parts, engines tuned or replaced, tires beefed up for better traction, and a show-stopping paint job as the final touch — became an issue of social status among hot-rodding’s participants. This status was expressed through clothing too. There were the ‘hot-rodders’ of the 1930s, when car modification for racing across dry lakes in California was more an innovative sport than a subculture, complete with the Southern California Timing Association of 1937 providing ‘official’ sanction. But by the 1950s, hot-rodding was a style too.  decade later it was, as many niche tastes are, commercialized and mainstream, with car design showing hot-rod traits.”  –Vintage Menswear, Douglas Gunn, Roy Luckett& Josh Sims

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REBEL TAILOR TOMMY NUTTER | THE LEGENDARY SAVILE ROW STRUTTER

The flamboyantly natty Savile Row tailor Tommy Nutter with his dogs. “Although tailoring was quite distinct from fashion then, Tommy Nutter changed the way men dressed,” says Dennis Nothdruft, who co-curated the 2011 retrospective (Tommy Nutter: Rebel on the Row) at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London along with tailor Timothy Everest. “And he changed the way Savile Row was seen. Before Nutters it was an exclusive, closed-off world. They didn’t even have window displays. Though, of course, the rest of the row looked upon him as an upstart whose shop was on the wrong side of the street.” (The huge purple candles in the shape of phalluses can’t exactly have endeared him to his neighbors… Another legend, Simon Doonan, was Nutter’s window dresser back in those days.) via

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Tommy Nutter will always be known as the flamboyant bee in Savile Row’s stuffy bonnet. Trained as a traditional tailor, the sexy and innovative Nutter was not happy following the status quo of stuffy Savile Row and literally took matters into his own hands. He created a sensation with his bold, signature look– wide shoulders, unapologetic lapels, bold fabrics & patterns. Nutter soon became the darling of the celebrity and rock ‘n’ roll scene– clothing the likes of The Rolling Stones, Bianca Jagger, Elton John, Eric Clapton, The Beatles,  Vidal Sassoon, Twiggy, David Hockney, and many others. His influence can still be seen today, through the apprentices who worked under him (John Galliano for one), and in the young new designers of today (E. Tautz) who are rediscovering his work. Tommy Nutter has forever left a mark on Savile Row, and defined a moment in time when bigger truly was better.

Designers like Tom Ford (who favors strong lapels and chunky neckwear) have famously cited Tommy Nutter as an influence. Bianca on Mick Jagger’s arm as he struts in his Tommy Nutter duds– from the book Day of the Peacock by Geoffrey Aquilina Ross that is an incredible visual chronicle of the flashy and flamboyant menswear style from 1963-1973.

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“KNOWLEDGE SPEAKS, BUT WISDOM LISTENS” | THE WISE WORDS OF JIMI

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”

― Jimi Hendrix

Too often in life we seek only to be heard instead of truly listening to, and understanding those who matter to us most– the ones that we love in this world. Jimi knew, and it would serve us well (me especially) to heed his wise words. At the end of the day, it’s the love that we give and receive– in other words, relationships, that make this life beautiful and worth living. Sometimes we must decrease so that the relationship can increase. After all, what’s more important–  being happy, or proving how smart we are and being right all the time?

Jimi Hendrix, 1967  Image by © Gered Mankowitz

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THE PRPS NOIR COLLECTION | VINTAGE REINTERPRETED, WORLD CLASS DENIM

The PRPS NOIR Collection is not about black denim. Noir utilizes the best selvedge denim fabrics available anywhere in the world– with incredibly extensive washes and old school wear, tear & repair details that are authentic to genuine vintage jeans painstakingly collected over the years worn by real miners, mechanics, and laborers alike. Each jean is handmade and can take up to a week to produce. No one is doing denim at this same level. Noir represents the best of PRPS– true collector’s items.

 

My Friend Donwan Harrell of PRPS gave me a preview of his yet to be released denim line–Noir. Almost 10 years later, PRPS continues to innovate and evolve denim like no one else. In fact, you can thank Donwan in large part for the Japanese denim phenomenon that we have today– he was the the first American to manufacture jeans in Japan, using Japanese fabric and Japanese construction. No one else was doing it. In the founding days of PRPS, Donwan set out to find the best quality selvedge denim in the world, and it wasn’t at Cone Mills— it was Okayama, Japan. (Back then Cone was really struggling just to stay alive, facing stiff pricing competition from Turkey, India, China– and the whole “Americana, US heritage brands, made in USA” menswear movement hadn’t happened yet, so there wasn’t the appetite like we have today for American selvedge denim from all the denim brands that have cropped-up in recent years…) In search of the old vintage looms, Donwan found a family there that for generations had been keeping the quality and heritage of old school selvedge denim alive. One thing that many don’t realize is that Japanese weaving technology has long been light-years ahead of much of the world. The old Toyoda and Sakamoto shuttle looms dating back many decades were much more advanced than the Draper looms that Cone Mills utilized for Levi’s.

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STEVE MCQUEEN, RICHARD AVEDON & RUTH ANSEL | HARPER’S BAZAAR, 1965

At first look there are obvious reasons to love this (February, 1965) cover of Harper’s Bazaar magazine– Steve McQueen of course, and the amazing photography of the legendary Richard Avedon. But there is another visionary manifested here, not often spoken of, especially back when this was on the newsstand. Ruth Ansel.

Ruth Ansel was a female pioneer in the world of graphic design. To read Ruth’s tales of her early days working with legends and creating a burgeoning new art form is fascinating– even though I’m not a graphic designer myself, there is so much that I appreciate and admire. An interesting footnote– 22 year old Ali MacGraw (pre-McQueen days) worked under Diana Vreeland at Harper’s Bazaar until she was finally convinced by a bevy of photographers to get out from behind the camera and strike a pose. And the rest is history, as they say…

When Ruth Ansel put Steve McQueen, photographed by Richard Avedon (also the guest editor), on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1965, it was the first time a male appeared on the cover of a women’s fashion magazine. 

“Point to an iconic magazine cover of the last 40 years, and chances are it was designed by Ruth Ansel. Since 1961, when she talked her way into the art department at Harper’s Bazaar, Ansel has defined the look of some of America’s visually influential publications. In the 1960s, her work for Bazaar captured a transitional moment in fashion and society. In the 1970s, she became the first female art director of The New York Times Magazine and in the 1980s she created the look of Vanity Fair.”

–Carol Kino

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STRAY CAT STRUTTIN’ STYLE | BRIAN SETZER AND THE BOYS ROCK THIS TOWN

I loved the early days of the Stray Cats back when they were young, raw and fresh from Long Island. Seeing lil’ Brian Setzer in these grainy old pics (if you can help out with any photo credits, I’d appreciate it!), some even from his pre-tattoo days built like a matchstick with a pile of hair that entered the room a full minute before he did…well, they are a sight to see. Their style was pretty tough back in the hungry years before the big payday when they rocked on a steady diet of engineer boots, creepers, skinny jeans, polka dot thrift shop tops with cut-off sleeves, bandanas and a sneer. Soon the look was gobbled up by the mainstream made-for-MTV crowd and regurgitated into a uniform with elements of new wave / new romantics fluffy hairdos, argyles, leopard print, gold lamé, Zodiac boots, and over-sized sportcoats.

Give the Stray Cats their due. Not only were they heavily responsible for a resurgence of interest in American roots Rock, Rockabilly, Swing, and Greaser culture– Brian Setzer was honored with being the first artist since Chet Atkins to be granted a Gretsch artist model guitar built and named for him. A true reflection of how strongly he was identified with Gretsch, and how he helped cement them with a new generation as the true player’s guitar for anyone serious about Rockabilly and the like. After the Stray Cats, guys like the Reverend Horton Heat, Mike Ness (Setzer played on Cheating at Solitaire) and others like them have carved-out their own sound and legacy on a Gretsch– and they owe a nod to Brian Setzer for paving the way.

A young and well-coiffed Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats back in the early 1980s

1982, Paris– A couple of lean, mean rockers Thierry Le Coz & Brian Setzer. Brian and the Stray Cats hit the road for the UK and Europe early on, as the Teddy Boy movement and the strong  love abroad for the Sun Records & rockabilly music legends (Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Duane Eddy, and many more) called them there to make their mark. Thierry (yep, he’s French) is a great guitarist and started out in the Rockabilly band Teen Kats back in the early 1980s, and met Brian and the boys while they were there touring Europe.  Le Coz moved to Austin, Texas in ’84, played with Will Sexton in Will and the Kill among others, and is still doing his thing. I love that pic of them, great style.

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