OLD NAVY

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U.S. Navy recruiting poster– circa 1917.  She’s sporting standard naval issue enlisted dress blues– or “crackerjacks” as they were commonly called in reference to the sailor boy on the popular Cracker Jack box.

Women have served as an integral and invaluable part of the U.S. Navy since the establishment of the Nurse Corps in 1908.  Nine years later, the Navy authorized the enlistment of women as “Yeomanettes.” In 1948, the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was signed, making it possible for women to officially enter the U.S. Navy in regular or reserve status.

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It’s commonly thought that the “bell bottom” trouser was introduced in 1817 to permit men to roll them above the knee when washing down the decks– and to make it easier to remove them in a hurry when forced to abandon ship or when washed overboard.  Old Navy folklore has suggested that they may have also been used as a life preserver– by knotting the legs at the opening and filling them with air.

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THE LEGEND OF SAILOR JERRY | TATTOO MASTER NORMAN COLLINS

 

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If you don’t know who Sailor Jerry is– you don’t know tattoos. Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins (1911-1973) is considered the foremost American tattoo artist of his time, and defined the craft in two eras– BSJ and ASJ (before and after Sailor Jerry). Arguably, he did more for the ancient art of tattoo than most any other single person.

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At age 19, Sailor Jerry enlisted in the US Navy. It was during his travels at sea that he was exposed to the art and imagery of Southeast Asia. Artistically, his influence stems from his union of the roguish attitude of the American sailor with the mysticism and technical prowess of the Far East. He maintained a close correspondence with Japanese tattoo masters during his career.

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Sailor Jerry regarded tattoos as the ultimate rebellion against “the Squares”. His legendary sense of humor is oft reflected in his work– but he was never one to compromise his professionalism or take his craft and responsibilities lightly.

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Sailor Jerry’s first studio was in Honolulu’s Chinatown, then the only place on the island where tattoo studios were located. His work was so widely copied, he had to print “The Original Sailor Jerry” on his business cards. There’s a guy up in Canada that goes by the same name, but don’t be fooled– although he’s good in his own right, he ain’t the original Sailor Jerry.

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Sailor Jerry remained a sailor his entire life. Even during his career as a tattoo artist, he worked as licensed skipper of a large three-masted schooner, on which he conducted tours of the Hawaiian islands. Sailing and tattooing were his only two professional endeavors.

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Sailor Jerry went out of his way to mentor those tattoo artists whose talents and attitude he respected, among them tattoo legends Don Ed Hardy and Mike Malone, to whom he entrusted his legacy of flash designs. He also railed against flashy tattoo artists such as Lyle Tuttle, and what he called “hippie tattoo” culture.

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From his 20s to his late 50s, he stopped tattooing entirely as a part of a disagreement with the IRS. Believe it or not, Sailor Jerry only tattooed for approximately 12 years.

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In 1999, Ed Hardy and Mike Malone partnered with an independent Philadelphia company to establish Sailor Jerry Ltd., which produces rum, clothing and other goods. Some say that Ed Hardy sold his old mentor, Sailor Jerry, up the river– taking much credit for Jerry’s style and pocketing the dough. Sailor Jerry (and Von Dutch alike)  may be rolling in his grave.

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Originally there were few colors available to tattoo artists– Sailor Jerry expanded the array by developing his own safe pigments. He also created needle formations that embedded pigment with much less trauma to the skin, and was one of the first to utilize single-use needles and hospital-quality sterilization.

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Tattooing legend Norman Collins AKA Sailor Jerry

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Tattooing legend Norman Collins AKA Sailor Jerry

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Great Depressionista

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Recesionista is one of those buzzwords of 2008 that’s getting a little overplayed.  In my small world, it’s feeling more like Great Depressionista— in regard to fashion and the economy.  Looking at these pictures from the 40’s, they look like what you see in a lot of Soho shops & vintage Americana brands these days like– RRL, LVC, Warehouse, etc.  There are great, rugged pieces, and little, honest details not to be missed– like our friend’s chambray workshirt (above) that’s been mended time and again over the years– out of necessity, not for fashion.  That looks like a great old pair of Levi 501s.  I like how the front belt-loops are placed nice and snug to the fly.

 

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Star Spangled Manor

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To say that my friends, Eric Jones and his wife Cary are patriotic– is kind of like saying that Martha Stewart is anal.  It’s a major understatement.  I asked him how many antique American flags they own– he lost count at 220.  By now you probably noticed the vintage Goyard trunk resting casually under the table…

 

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Name, Rank, Serial Number and Much More.

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I’m writing this because of a recent experience I had.  A friend that is an avid antique collector handed me an old I.D. tag and said– “check this out.”  I wasn’t ready for the emotion and humility that overcame me as I held the old tarnished tag in my hand.  I realized it was much more than a piece of stamped metal– it was someone’s personal story of sacrifice,  for whom I may very well absolutely owe my own freedom too.  I stood there for a second, unable to speak.  

It was humbling to say the least. 

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The image above was taken in 1945, and shows American infantrymen lining up to drop their personal belongings (pictures and letters from loved ones back home, wallets, etc.) into boxes for safe keeping, and in accordance with regulations.  Any items (except dog tags) that could identify a soldier were strictly forbidden on special missions.  The soldiers here were stationed in Italy and preparing to embark on a night raid of German positions. Continue reading

Wanted- A Place in the Sun.

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You won’t fide a whole lot of actual shade at The Shady Dell, but you will find an artsy, desert haven down in Bisbee AZ.  If I had the dough, I’d pack up and head there right now to escape my winter blues.   Once New Year’s has come and gone, I am officially over it and ready for the sun.

The Shady Dell is run by a young, retro couple with a passion for 50s vintage living.  There are 9 fully-restored campers ranging from a ’49 Airstream to a ’57 El Ray— often mistaken for an Airstream, but actually more rare and coveted.  

Nestled perfectly within walking distance from each trailer is Dot’s Diner. Built in the 1950s by the pride of Wichita Kansas, The Valentine Manufacturing Company, this authentic diner was originally purchased by John Hart in 1957 and delivered to the corner of Ventura and Topanga Canyon Blvd in Los Angeles. The diner was transported by flatbed truck to the Shady Dell in November, 1996.

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COOL HAND LUKE | SOMETIMES A CHORE COAT CAN BE A REAL COOL HAND

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Cool Hand Luke starring Paul Newman is a classic film, and without a doubt one of my favorites.  It’s Newman’s greatest performance, in a film loaded with powerhouse acting.  You’ve got George Kennedy, Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton, Jo Van Fleet, Strother Martin (What we’ve got here is “failure to communicate”) and Dick Davalos, to name a few.  Don’t know who Dick Davalos is?  He played Blind Dick, and is best remembered as Aaron Trask, opposite James Dean’s Cal Trask in East of Eden.

Speaking of James Dean– the role of Lucas Jackson would more than likely been his– not Newman’s, had he not been killed in a fatal car crash.  Dean would have starred in The Left Handed GunSomebody Up There Likes Me and probably Hud as well.  Not to take anything away from Paul Newman, but Dean was definitely the bigger star back then, and his passing gave Newman a clear path to instant stardom.

26469_2Cool Hand Luke is visually rich with incredibly authentic sets, cultural cues, wardrobe and styling. I wanted to live in that prison bunkhouse.  What was so bad?  They got to hang-out, enjoy cold drinks, eat eggs and such.

I became obsessed with the old chain-gang garb, and own several beat-up, RRL denim chore coats because of it.  Chore coats are an iconically American piece– worn by laborers, convicts, artists and plain everyday folk.  And another American icon– the classic chambray workshirt is in there too.

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There was nothing not to like in this film– even the hair.  Carr the floor walker, and Blind Dick had very cool D.A.’s.  And what about the incredible score, Harry Dean Stanton’s crooning, and Paul Newman singing and playing banjo on Plastic Jesus?  The film is pregnant with comparisons of Luke to Jesus. Luke is their leader– his crucifixion pose after eating the eggs– “stop feeding off of me!” alluding to communion– Dragline as ‘Judas’ bringing the cops to Luke in the final scene– on and on.  There are some many famous lines in Cool Hand Luke that I could be here all day– “shaking it up here boss!”

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JAMES DEAN IN JACK PURCELLS

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This has always been one of my favorite shots of James Dean. We’re used to seeing him highly-stylized, flawless and in technicolor– but here he’s just a guy hanging out like anyone else. There are some shots of Dean that I can’t even look at. In Giant, his character ages over the course of the story, so they shaved into his hairline to make it appear receding, and gave him a creepy (and very Sean Penn-like) mustache.

When James Dean was killed in that horrible crash, he had just finished filming Giant and his natural hairline hadn’t grown back in– so he looked older than he actually was when he died.  That always seemed ironic and troubling to me.

My fascination with Dean started as a teen– he was my idol. I read something deep and mystical into the fact we had the same birthday. It was all about the angst and feeling like there is no one in the world that understands you– no one. I was sure that James Dean would have understood me.

Back then, a lot of the stories about his sexuality weren’t as widely known as they are now. I just assumed he was straight–he kissed girls in movies, so what was there to know? A lot, apparently  It was a shocker for me– a naive, straight kid growing up on Phoenix. The only point of reference I had for a gay person was Liberace, for cryin’ out loud. I remember reading about all the shenanigans on the set of Rebel Without a Cause– teenage star Natalie Wood having a tryst with director Nicholas Ray, who was in his 50s– James Dean (bisexual / bicurious) and fellow actor Nick Adams also supposedly involved– Sal Mineo, gay.Then the big shocker– Rock Hudson too. This was all a big surprise and changed my perception of the world.

It was only 20 years ago that I was in high school, but light years apart from today in terms of tolerance. I didn’t know anyone that admitted being gay or bisexual back then.  You just didn’t. Sure there were rumors and talk. All it took to be labeled as gay was to have what somebody considered a gay hairstyle or voice, or a little extra swish in your step. Being called queer was every kid’s worst fear. You just wanted to conform back then.

That was, and still is the appeal of James Dean, aside from his enormous talent and looks– he made being misunderstood cool.