Denim Dudes is a cool new book by Amy Leverton that profiles many of the top designers and innovators in the denim world. The photography is stunning, shot around the globe, as it tracks down denim gurus in the US, UK, Europe, Japan, and Australia. There are definitely some friendly, familiar faces. Like Donwan Harrell of PRPS, King of Japanese denim, and the first to bring it to the US years ago. Dude is world renowned as a leading authority on denim and washes. I was blown away that Donwan chose to wear the Blackbird jean made from 14oz raw Japanese denim that we collaborated on for The Selvedge Yard a few years back. It was truly humbling to crack the cover and see Donwan Harrell proudly wearing our jean. Damn. Thank you.
I will always remember the day I met Mike & Dave Stampler at the Norman Porter studio in Philadelphia and they walked me through painstaking process of how they make their jeans. Sweating every detail, the immaculate sewing, reinforcing, bar-tacking, hand-hammering rivets, and the chunkiest (10 oz indigo chambray), cleanest pocket bags this side of anywhere. I’ve been in menswear for a long-ass time, so I’ve been to the rodeo before… I said, “So, you know you guys are totally over-engineering this thing, right?” Mike just stares at me and says, “Yes.” Me, “I fucking love it.” This is how you make a jean. Like a boss. #sorrynotsorry
No detail was overlooked, no corners cut. This collaboration is one that I’m stoked and honored to be a part of. Some of Philly’s best artists stepped up to add their mastery, driven to do something cool just out of kindness. Mike Ski of True Hand Society Tattoos & Design in Fishtown drew and tattooed each leather patch by hand. He nailed the marriage of the TSY lightning bolt logo with Norman Porter’s snake, in my opinion. Jessie Jay (also of THS) jumped in to design the pocket bags for us that Pink Bike Ralph printed. It’s pretty cool how everyone was so humble and just came together to quietly celebrate the spirit and camaraderie of Philly design, craft & quality. It was an awesome thing to see everyone come together…for a jean. We are only making 13 pairs of these beauties… And when they’re gone, they are gone.
Pennsylvania born & bred, and true salt of the earth guys, Mike & Dave Stampler are the brothers behind Norman Porter Co. I reached out last year, asking if I could come down and see their Philly workshop. I was greeted with genuine smiles, a firm handshake, and a ton of passion for their craft. We’ve gotten to know each other, and I’ve grown to like poking around their place and shooting the shit with them from time to time. Everything in their studio has a purpose, history, and heart. I like that. I also find it fulfilling talking about the inspiration, design, materials, craftsmanship, repurposing of old machinery, and all the attention to detail that goes into everything they do. They are the epitome of “industrious little fuckers”. Their father was a mechanic. The boys grew up in the garage and were bestowed with a solid work ethic. Dad still doles out chores when they come visit. Knowing Mike & Dave now, it’s no surprise that Norman Porter Co. (named after their Grandfather) is all about utilizing the best quality materials and craftsmanship to create an honest product that stands the test of time. Quality is not some cliche tagline for them. It’s legit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Junya Watanabe is still up to taking iconic American sportswear and giving it his signature funky twist– playing with texture, scale & functionality.
The twins put on a show that looked like ‘old world’ tailored formalwear meets Rock ‘n’ Roll rebel. The looks were very strong, when they stayed on message.
The ruggedly handsome leather & shearling outerwear was stunning, but left you wondering if the story really was ‘Estaire does denim’ or ‘tough country squire’?
The layered looks are great, and take a page straight out of Ralph Lauren’s book. If anything at all, Ralph is the true master at consistency of message and focus. Dean & Dan Caten should have taken that page too.
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.