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 Gun, Somebody 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.
Cool 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.
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!”
I had the pleasure of chatting with Sid Mashburn at the Warwick Haberdashery Show. He stopped by to see the Robert Redd line and hung out for awhile.
This is just an incredible read from the January issue of Outside magazine. It’s all about mining for the vintage denim and duds of old miners!
Brit Eaton is the best of a curious breed of fortune hunters combing old mine shafts and barns across the West for vintage denim. He’s discovered $50,000 worth of clothes in a single day, and his clients include Ralph Lauren and Levi’s.
Junya Watanabe’s (of Comme des Garcons) Spring 2009 collection is a very fitted & fresh mix of American menswear “classics with a twist”. Collaborations with iconic prepster brands- Brooks Brothers, Levi’s, Lacoste and Baracuta made for some funky updates to familiar models, patterns and fabrics. What also makes it youthful is eye-catching denim pieces and cool hats thrown in.
Back then, Wrangler jeans (and Lee as well, for that matter) used the same double arcuate stitch design as Levi Strauss on the back pockets. Tsk, tsk. I like the Wrangler coin/watch pocket shape and stitching in the picture above. It looks very clean and modern for it’s time. Wrangler was button-fly up until 1947 when they introduced a new model- the 13MWZ zipper front.
Link to Wrangler Company History
1950s Levi’s Vintage 501 – front. Check the leg twist you’d get with old, un-sanforized denim.
Back view of a vintage Levi’s 501 jean.
Why do I love vintage Levi 501 jeans you ask? Let me count the ways-
- The capital “E’ on the red tab, introduced in 1936 and produced up until 1971.
- The brown leather patch- changed to “leather-like” cardstock in the mid-late 1950s.
- The red selvedge 10 oz denim woven by Cone Mills, North Carolina on 29″ wide looms. I wish it were a little denser- but I’m not complainin’.
- The incredible leg-twist that you get on a pair of vintage non-sanforized 501 jeans.
- The great tracks produced by the selvedge outseams from wear and bruising of the denim.
- The Arcuate stitching or “double arcs” on the back pockets- one of the oldest apparel trademarks still in use today. During WWII it was actually painted on to due to government rationing.
- The very narrow hem at the bottom leg opening, and all the great bunching and bruising from shrinkage and wear.
--Carl Chiara, design director LEVI'S CAPITAL E and RED COLLECTIONS
“I like the process- from a brand-new unwashed pair of jeans until they’re ready for burial. I really do wear them hard. I start off by doing a lot of squats to get the wrinkles in nicely. But the number one trick is wearing your jeans every single day and letting your sweat and oils start to morph the denim, so it becomes a very personal shape. I think the key difference with the 501 is that it fits around your body. I like the way that 501’s don’t follow your every curve; they evolve to fit your body. Also, as they move along, I repair them so I can get more wear out of them. They really do become a part of you. Once you break a pair in, there’s no alternative. You just can’t put on another pair of jeans.”
– Carl Chiara, design director LEVI’S CAPITAL E and RED COLLECTIONS