Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bettie Page, Icons, Leather and Hotness

In a sad moment, or maybe an uplifting moment there have been some recent celebrity deaths of late that shook my heartstrings. Eartha and Bettie Page both passed on recently and served to remind me that real human beings can often surpass their own existence into the realm of iconic greatness that becomes unattached, unchained significance. This must have been perplexing to the living artists when their captured works become culturally bigger then their own lives. These two arguably contributed so much to fashion, fetish and my interest leather inextricably due to their unique beauty and extreme and interesting personae. Bettie was the most incredible combination of brunette physical "natural" symmetry and perfection, combined with an open innocent sexuality and sexual image that she defined "hotness" for millions of twentieth century urban pinup suicide girls. Her use of skin tight iconic clothing imbued everything that was good about well fitted clothing and sexiness of the all American girl.

Eartha who was also iconic, broke ground with her triple threat talents, politics, and sex symbol status (Catwoman etc..) as a powerful black woman. Often representing everything that was possible in American culture today (i.e. Obama) years in advance of her time. She dared criticize the President in the sixties suffering great personal and career criticism, and similarly took on the role of Catwoman and reinvigorating a new sexiness to a role when smart talented women of color did not feature prominently in the period. I thank the universe for these two, because they forever changed culture, sexuality, politics and fashion in a way that we only are beginning to understand, and in a way martyred their own lives for it. Neither benefited greatly from their own genius. Certainly draconian copyright never figured into Page's status until the later years of her life. She never benefited from the use and wide cultural importance of her image living a rather modest existence, only profiting in her later years. The open exchange and use of her images grew her cultural relevance far beyond "pin up girl" and serves as a lesson to many of the industries today who seek to command and control their "cultural production" well beyond their rights to do so.
Thanks ladies we are all richer because of you!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Spots, Punks and Ebay

Customization and spot work were traditionally the realm of the warrior. Ancient knights customized their Armour not just for protection but so that they could be easily identified. These warriors could distinguish themselves in combat and strike fear into the hearts of the enemy. That tradition which can be traced back to the beginnings of human civilization incorporated popular culture in WW 2 when American airmen used their favorite media characters to decorate their jackets and planes and proclaim their achievements and intentions to their Nazi targets. Camouflage was not the concern unlike soldiers on the ground. The social and antisocial biker clubs that rose from the traditions of brotherhood and danger of WW 2 also sought to proclaim themselves through irony and often fearful imagery. Bikers routinely co opted and recontextualised popular culture icons into their jackets both combining powerful imagery and Armour appearance with practical protection from the road. One of the last great antisocial movements that celebrated this combination of culture, aggression and protection was the punk rock movement. Punkers celebrated their warrior status by wearing their politics on their leathers. Lefty punkers, anarchists, skins, Nazis all decorated their "war" gear appropriately with images of their musical heros, and studded their jackets like medieval knights in leather hobnail Armour. The goal was to strike fear into straight society, and their "enemies" in other groups. I added two photos of my old buddy Ken just to relive a moment in time

Sad ebay side notes of the month: Ebays new feedback rating system ensures that even when achieveing 4 stars out of 5, no seller qualifies for any discounts, search optimization and now sales. Part of the new requirement is 4 4.5 star ratings to get any discounts on Ebay. Apparently 80% isn't good enough, ebays c minus service requires a sellers A ++ rating of 90% or better. And because buyers think they are leaving good feedback with 4 stars, we all get to pay more to ebay...way to go!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Spots and Road Knights!

So what are all these fantastic custom pieces of leather with their studs and metal and spots everywhere. When I was young and goodlookin me and my friends would buy our leather cyclechamp d-pocket brimaco jackets and customize them with pain, punkrock and metal to be menacing and bad. The more threatening and armor like your jacket, the more bad ass it was. We thought we were so original, and how wrong we were.

Leather and studs go back thousands of years back to the Mycenaean culture and beyond. Inserting metal onto leather was the earliest form of protection and armor making. But what is important is where leather, metal and identity meet. The Medieval knights of the upper classes armored head to toe, had to customize their look to be identified friend or foe. Leather, metal and customization was a long history of warrior culture and continues today from punks and bikers, Rockers of Britain and the old time biker clubs of America. Spots not only saved expensive leathers from scratches and road rash, but they became a form of expression of personal identity. And it didn't hurt to have a flash of shiny nickle when riding down a lonely highway in a black leather jacket when a 2000 lb car came screaming by!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hiccup, the elections over maybe back to Business

The last bunch of years has been a bit of a joke. My business (the vintage clothing business) has been hammered by Bush policies and general right wing agendas. First it was SARS when American media tried to demonize Toronto because people had the flu, then the dollar bouncing and now cheap knock off crap from China (Im glad Wallmart is richer) and wall Street greed. I have to say I actually was a bit emotional when Obama was elected last night. We just went through our own election here in Canada and as usual it was uneventful and more of the same.
American elections hold a real interest in Canada. In reality American politics often dictates as much about our policies and economy as our own government. As you can imagine Bushy hasn't really been very good for Canada or Canadian values. After I watched Obama get elected most (not all) people here in Ice land sighed a sense of relief. Like maybe we have a new hope for change away from the madness of the last 8 years. We all lost money, we all feel badly for people embroiled in war, and especially me, I feel for my friends of color especially my black friends who after years of experiencing racism in one form or another breathed a sigh of relief, like it was finally not completely wrong to be black. I actually was moved.

Just a thought, now that there is a new President: People are still going to be bigoted in America, Canada and the world, but isn't it nice to know that it will become just that much more unacceptable and less the norm and more the exception. Next we need a Gay president or a Woman, or a gay women...we can keep this thing going! And when it is all done, we can elect people who actually represent ... Read More their own politics, and don't bow out cause they smoked a joint or their kids friend published naked pictures of their privates on the internet or because they hung out with the wrong person when they were 12, who knows maybe one day we can live in a clean environment and where oil company s and banks don't dictate domestic and foriegn policy and where mutual respect and hard work are rewarded and where deviant social behavior is punished and or reformed, wow....I think I saw that show it was Star Trek the original series!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Halloween and the Rise of the Dead!!!!

I like to think of myself as an intriguing mix of Alfred E. Newman meets Steve McQueen. This year for Halloweeny instead of my usual fare, Nance and I dug into the archive of vintage leather and went as dead 40s bikers. I considered it an homage to all those people who lived hard, died and left me their fantastic apparel. In some way their spirits live on in their leathers so we donned the garbs and went aspookin. This was a nice prelude to some interviews I'm doing with some real old time club bikers who are nice enough to share some picture and stories from their day. I'm wearing a Buco police jacket and a pair of Score (Toronto) 1940s copy Harley jodhpurs with 1940s harness boots and a 1930s military belt, Nance is in a 1940s Cycle Queen, some 1950s flat track racing pants and we both have on early riding gauntlets. Halloween was...awesome!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Los Angeles, Logos and Design, Simple Simple Simple

I've been busy designing a logo for my new company. I'm trying to balance the tightrope between clean iconic design and horrifying kitsch. When designing the line between clear identifiable brand and derivative dumb hommage is very thin. The only thing worse than dumb homage is over wrought nightmarish flourish. So since I have sought out designers the detente between trying to get what you want and not offending those offering the design is a very scary tightrope. I ask for simple and iconic and I get back L.A. style Germanic overwrought skater style images. I immediately morph into a critical lunatic. I don't want to be Ed Hardy, or Juicy or anything tattoo related I say. Does anybody understand? Man, the Japanese are so far ahead of North America stylistically, who would have thunk it.
All this aside, I collected some of the best iconic brands here so in case anybody ever asks me what is simple and iconic they can refer to the above!!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My A-2 For Sale, Ebay and the Declining U.S. Economy

So I have a rare piece that I am selling for a friend. Recently with the downturn in the U.S. economy more and more of my customers are Asian or European. In fact for the last six months my sales have switched from approximately 70 percent American 30 percent other to 90 perecnt European/Asian/Australian 10 percent American. Worse still, I now get vitriolic emails from frustrated Americans who are mad about my prices and go out of their way to curse. It is very strange to be selling in a world market and being yelled at from one corner of the world. I feel badly for all the people including my family that are suffering because of the greed of wall street and the impotence of the U.S. government to curb the Ponzi scheme that allowed for the fleecing of middle class people across the world, but guess what, I have to make a living too and cant give away merchandise! That being said, I have this incredible A-2. It is the jacket of Laidlaw Bowie Mackall, who as it turns out was a war hero of the China,Burma, India Japan theatre and winner of many many medals. This is a real gem of a rare rare moment in the history of World War Two pilot history. While getting a lot of interest on ebay I had no real offers, so feel free if you are interested to email me one!!!! Here is a little piece of history on this jacket:



The following was Col. Kalberer's recommendation for Major Mackall's Silver Star, based on his efforts to save Major Slack's plane.

On 6 January 1945, a formation of five aircraft from the 462nd Bombardment Group, were on a daylight strike mission against Omura, Kyushu. This formation had been assigned the lowest altitude of all formations making the strike and were supposed to attack first. However the other formations hit early, and the five plane formation was the next to last one over the target. As a result, the enemy had been thoroughly altered and has been able to get a large number of fighters into the air over the area, which he now knew was the object of attack. Immediately after bombs away, the first fighter attack and knocked out two engines of the lead airplane. Major Mackall, pilot of the deputy lead airplane, was informed of this fact over the Command Radio by the Formation Commander. As the damaged airplane began to lose speed and altitude slowly, it was apparent that unless protected, it would soon be shot down by enemy fighters. Major Mackall decided to keep with the lead plane and cover it as best he could. With great skill and determination he remained close on its wing even though the damaged plane, somewhat disorganized, flew directly over **** and a heavy anti-aircraft barge was encountered. By this time, about fifteen minutes after the first attack, the lead plane had slowed down to 160 MPH. Disregarding the fact that their slow speed had enabled the fighters to make very accurate attacks, and that about thirty more enemy planes could be seen climbing to engage the formation, Major Mackall, with cool disregard for the increasing danger from savage and hard-pressed enemy attacks made with aerial bombs and machine guns, gallantly remained with the damaged airplane to afford maximum protection for its efforts to reach rescue craft off the coast of Japan. For about thirty minutes, he kept with the cripple, which had lost altitude until it reached an undercast. To descend through the undercast would have forced him to leave his charge and required a climb before reaching his home base. he realized that to render further aid would have been futile and that the enemy fighters were low on gas and ammunition. He therefore left the damaged airplane to descend into the cover of the undercast and successfully brought his plane back to its home base.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Winters Coming get your Horse and Wool!!!

Ok, after taking a long break from blogging Im back for today!!! I have a million things to write about. Most importantly, winter is coming, tommorrow is a federal election here in Canada, and as usual, Ebay in all its continued insanity has had another sale day first day after a long weekend, and on the same day as the federal election. Just how rude and stupid can the business office at Ebay Canada be? That aside, I've not been blogging due to my deep desire to build my own website. It is coming along slowly so stay tuned. On that note, winter is coming. What did the bold and the hearty do back in the day. Why they wore horsehide, either lined with wool or combined with wool. How cool is that? The deep protective waterproof qualities of horsehide jackets mixed with the warm scratch bold masculine plaids of wool. Jackets cannot be made today with this manly design and masculine materials. Damn they were good back in the day!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Motorcycle Paraphanailia and Cool Shirts

I have a collection of cool motorcycle t-shirts. I love everything from the 70's and have no idea how it happened. I remember in the 80's I hated the seventies, I obviously didn't understand cool, wow self awareness and enlightenment is cool!

Daytona Bike Week has been a tradition since January 24, 1937 - the inaugural running of the Daytona 200. Perhaps it was the appeal of hard sand, warm winter days and the excitement of that first motorcycle race on the beach, that made Daytona Beach the home of Bike Week. Now, the event is usually held on the first full week of March and contends with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally as the most popular motorcycle rally in the United States. Bike Week has always had a flavor of its own. The rally started on January 24, 1937. This first race in Daytona was a 3.2 miles (5.1km) beach and pavement course, and won by Ed "Ironman" Kretz from Monterey Park, California, riding an American made Indian motorcycle. This yearly race took a break from 1942 to 1947 due to World War II. During the years off, an unofficial event was still taking place commonly called Bike Week. In 1947 the official race resumed and gained in popularity. The event was then promoted by the late William France Sr., co-founder of NASCAR. Some time after the war, the event began to take on a rugged edge. While the motorcycle races on the beach were organized, events surrounding the race were not. As time passed, locals became afraid of the visitors and law enforcement officers and city officials were less than enthusiastic about what some termed an "invasion". Relations between the Bikers and law enforcement officials continued to worsen. When things appeared to be at their worst (after the 1986 event), a special task force was organized by the city in cooperation with the local chamber of commerce to improve relations and change the magnitude and scope of the event. When photojournalist and writer Roby Page first started trekking to Daytona Beach, Florida, for Bike Week in 1985, the counterculture gathering was dominated by rogues, ruffians, and rebels. In Bike Week at Daytona Beach: Bad Boys and Fancy Toys, Page gives us an understanding of the visceral, even elemental thrills of traveling by motorcycle. He tracks the history of the outlaw biker image from its origins in the wake of World War II and vividly documents the evolution of two American icons - the Biker and the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, creator of the machine favored by bikers. Cold beer, great burgers, pool tables, and old Florida hospitality! This ringer tee from the 1985 event with its amazing graphic design, conveys the frenetic energy and pace of the Daytona 200.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Insainity, Ebay and the New Feedback!!!

I rarely like to use my forum to complain about others but O joy O bliss I received my first negative feedback on ebay in a long while, and it was the first under ebay's new feedback system. I have been on ebay since it opened, in fact I tried to create my own ebay before it even existed. Believe it or not the earliest adopter of the online auction for collectibles format was in fact a bunch of buddies of mine in the vintage clothing business. Our secret Cabal of dealers were way ahead of the ebay game. I have both fortunately and unfortunately been with ebay through the entire rise and fall of internet selling. Wow, have they ever gone astray. The great irony is even though there have been failed attempts to compete with ebay, now that they truly have alienated their seller base, no one wants to step up to the plate and finally offer a competative marketplace.
That aside, I got my first negative feedback today. Wow, the new rules are so awesome. Not only did I get it from a guy who didnt even tell me he was unhappy but you should see the affect on my rating. Each feedback takes me down a full percentage point and now I cant even respond when I run into a problem buyer. Worst is there are financial penalties for me at a time when ebay is already charging sellers so much that they are looking for alternatives that are cheaper to sell through. I could go on but suffice to say, you combine a guy who doesnt understand vintage leather, and a personality disorder and a disfunctional public company and you end up with one very unhappy ebay seller.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Leather Fetish and Normalacy: Which are You?

So what is the line between fetish, obsession and "normal"? Hmmmm, my wife goes oragasmic over Cole Haan bags, and Manolo shoes...I sometimes think I am married to Ms. Marcos! I've often wondered if my collection of leather is obsessional myself, with the piles of jackets I have accumulated. Just when I though...hmmm maybe Im normal...I don't dress up in leather thongs and go to big parties for whippings (not that there is anything wrong with that) I remember back to my first really cool jacket and how excited I was when I bought it. I remember the creak of the hard leather as it folded and broke in, the sense of protection that it offered and that smell! Well, now I am remembering why Nancy gets so excited about that bag and those shoes...and hell Im not the only one who obviously has this fascination just check out some of the links on my blog or this guy!!!!

Its not like its weird I just forget that I have it and dont know why!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Great Old Companies and their Trademarks

One of the really cool aspects of good old leather companies were their design trademarks. Not silly design trademarks in the legal sense (although those were very common in the early days) but more design trademarks that were style markers. If you infringed on another maker's style you risked having your brand identified as another maker's, so different brands naturally defined themselves in order to differentiate themselves. One must speculate that in the old days there was more value in "being unique" than ripping off your competitor. To be fair this was not always the case. In the 20s and 30s many companies parroted each other redefining each others style often making subtle changes and even improvements on design. I remember an Admiral Byrd jacket that had a patent pending on a pocket design in the 30s that became common place by the 1940s. By the 1950s and the development of many companies who competed against each other to make common styles specs defined by the U.S. Army or police forces, many companies started to develop trademark styles. Harley Davidson defined itself with the smooth back and d-pocket of the cycle champ and cycle queen, and many lesser companies produced knock offs of the cut all the way into the 80s (Brimaco is the classic example) but many many companies promoted their trade mark style and were rarely copied. Passiac Leathers was one of those companies. The created the diagonal pocket round neck cafe racer. Those diagonal pockets were their trademark! Rarely have I ever seen a Passiac that wasn't a basic black cafe racer, but this one combines their trademark style with the exotic colours of a true 1960s cafe racer a la Bates!!!!!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Children, Sophistication and Designing for Grownups

One of the fascinating trends I see in clothing design is the compulsion modern consumers have to dress their young children in adult clothing. More designers seemingly create adult-style fashions to cash in on what marketers see as a lucrative demographic. Personally I find modern children's clothing somewhat obscene, especially clothing that "sexualizes" the wearer. That being said, there is a long tradition of adult-style clothing for children that is both sophisticated and attractive. Often the more colorful designs reserved for the fringes of adulthood served well on the younger set, especially given the rugged durability and functionality of the clothing. Check out these amazing two-tone wool motorcycle style jackets from the 1930s. Obviously not designed for 8 year-old motorcyclists they have a beauty and sophistication that is a welcome look. Also, the rugged and fun design of the Sears fidelity youth jacket of the 1950s. Note the simple spotwork on the front half-belt which is much more about aesthetic than back support and fit.
From the design perspective it might not be the best protective design for a horsehide jacket but from a style perspective, very classy, very sophisticated indeed! This belt design only shows up on the Sears children's line of horsehide motorcycle jackets.