Wednesday, April 30, 2008
One of the amazing effects of the bloggosphere is this incredible fortuitous synchronicity where I meet and interact with people across the globe whose only common bond to me is the love of well made leather. Just one such event happened in the last 2 weeks where through the miracle of the web Joe from Reno said Howdoo and sent me pics of his incredible jacket. Joe was the classic hippy of the Haight Asbury days. He bought the jacket on Castro street right from the East West Musical Instruments store. As the "old greybeard" was telling me, he was leaving Reno for Penn. and found his old jacket which hasnt fit in 20 years. I was astounded at its beauty and design and am hoping that Joe will send me some photos and stories of his jackets journey when he gets settled in his new home. He inspired me to go to Reno last week, and damn I had fun playing poker and hiking in the gorgeous mountain air.
I spoke with local Police about their jacket suppliers, and even got to play poker with Ken Shamrock, Ultimate Cage Fighter. Im glad I can say I know where cowboys come from!!!
Monday, April 28, 2008
Dear Mr. Himel:
Thank you for contacting the CRTC regarding the issue that has become known as "traffic shaping" of the internet. The CRTC is aware of the public debate over this issue and is monitoring its development.
The CRTC does not regulate the retail rates or quality of service provided by Internet service providers (ISPs) to their end customers. I therefore suggest you contact your ISP directly regarding your concerns if you have not already done so.
The CRTC regulates the internet access services that large telecommunication companies such as
The CRTC has received a formal complaint by the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP) against
In addition, anti-competitive behavior complaints can be submitted by an ISP to Industry
Competition Bureau Industry
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I'm on holiday in Reno, Nevada enjoying the cool desert air and the fabulous golf and poker. Happiness is being up at poker! I played with Ken Shamrock, and a host of characters since I have been here. I had a local cop beside me at one table, and to my surprise he wanted to discuss leather jackets! It was an inspirational moment. When I returned to my suite, there was a documentary on China's growing industrial toxicity and how its people are being decimated. Apparently 90% of China's rivers (which are its only water supply) are so toxic as they are deemed dead. There are entire towns and cities where populations have gone from cancer rates of 1 in 100 000 to 1 in every hundred or even higher. It brought home to roost for me why it is more important than ever to support local business and local economies. Look, you can own a reasonably produced cheap jacket with no style for almost free, or your lawn furniture, or that bbq, but in the end all you have done is leveraged the health of men, women and children in the third world. The worst part is the local governments in China ( and probably elsewhere) are complicit in the poisoning of their own people because they own and collect revenues and taxes from these factories, tanneries and other crude industrial polluters. If it wasnt ok in 1890 in North America and Europe it shouldnt be ok in China in 2008.
The process is already under way. Acid rain caused by China's sulfur-dioxide emissions severely damages forests and watersheds in Korea and Japan and impairs air quality in the US. Every major river system flowing out of China is threatened with one sort of cataclysm or another. The surge in untreated waste and agricultural runoff pouring into the Yellow and China Seas has caused frequent fish die-offs, and overfishing is endangering many ocean species.
The growing Chinese taste for furs and exotic foods and pets is devastating neighboring countries' populations of everything from gazelles to wolves, and turtles to parrots, while its appetite for shark fin soup is causing drastic declines in shark populations throughout the oceans. According to a study published in Science in March 2007, the absence of the oceans' top predators is causing a resurgence of skates and rays, which are in turn destroying scallop fisheries along America's Eastern Seaboard. Enthusiasm for traditional Chinese medicine is causing huge declines in populations of hundreds of animals – including tigers, pangolins, and sea horses. Seeking oil, timber, and other natural resources, China is building massive roads, bridges, and dams throughout Africa, often disregarding international environmental and social standards.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
So why the lack of talk of women’s leather? Well, as I was reminded today, women rarely wore leather in the old days. Leather was a work jacket, a hunting jacket, a flying jacket but not so much a fashion jacket. Very few women’s leather jackets remain in the historical record as compared to men’s ones. It was the rare woman that wore leather. She was bold and unique, blazing trails for today’s woman! These women were the Amelia Earharts and Katherine Hepburn’s, adventurers and pant wearers! I decided to research Earhart today, and found out that she lived and worked just up the street from me on Spadina Ave in Toronto. Earhart came to Toronto to visit her sister and stayed to work with returning war vets at the then Spadina Military hospital up the street from me. It was here at the Canadian National Exhibition that she met flyers and discovered her passion for flying. And it was women like her (rare and few and far between) that wore leather. Amelia’s favorite jackets included a European tailored horsehide trench coat, and an Abercrombie A-1 style button up jacket. These were important styles that were much more typically worn by men and were the early prototypes for the much more famous jackets that were developed during WW2 for the famed pilots and soldiers on all sides of the war. The 1930s styles were simplistic and clean and reflective of intuitive tailoring that had been more or less untouched by the industrial age!
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I am going to preface this posting with the fact that I am not a safety expert, and I only have limited research into ideas around safety. I personally find the modern import jackets made with their poor stitching and crappy plastic inserts a ridiculous attempt to create a sense of security for the people who buy them.
Recent independent tests by Motorcycle News (MCN, 2003), in the UK found only 4 out of 18 leather suits f from the major European manufacturers, passed all the tests against the European Standard. Twelve of these suits failed the burst test due to either thread and/or leather failure and impact protectors failed in eight suits.
Ok, so exo skeleton wearers keep this in mind. My step dad was a coroner. For years we discussed the many many motorcycle accident victims that he would get every spring, summer and fall. It seems there is a prevailing opinion that impact with a solid object at a high rate of speed results in death. All the plastic bits in the world will not stop this inevitability. From years of seeing quality leather jackets that have been through slides and spills, the most important attribute I see is a hard thick leather that is abrasion resistant and allows for a slide, combined with proper construction and stitching that prevents the outfit from coming apart. Anecdotally, I don’t trust food made by slave farm labour, children’s toys, or leather suits. Here is a great quote from the Motorcycle Council of N.S.W.:
Most manufacturers are finally including impact protectors in all the right places. The abrasion resistance scores for textile jackets have also improved significantly. However it is pointless to have high abrasion resistant materials (leather or textile), if the stitching fails and the suit bursts apart when you hit the road. Quality of construction is critical.
So there you have it, why ever buy any item of clothing that is undermade, undersewn, or lacks the logic and purpose to which it is built. In my opinion, no leather jacket, for fashion, riding, working or just plain screwing around should be made with less then this standard in mind. Check out this 70s Vanson that I have up for sale and the abrasion on the back…sliding is the most important characteristic of full hide leather. I would love to see someone riding their bicycle in a Prada leather jacket and falling off…I like my standards, lol.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Until you have worn or held an early 30s suede jacket in your hand you cannot imagine the difference a little tradition makes. Modern suede is, by leather world standards, a by-product of the tanning process. When tanning leather modern tanners must often split or skive a skin down to a desired thickness to create the kind of skin required for the usage. So if one is making a belt or a saddle, a thick full skin in a veg. tan is best suited as it is hard, inflexible and mouldable for shaping and carving. These leathers, like shoe leather, can be a full thickness but for jacket purposes one has to split the layers of the dermis to create the desired thickness. The skin side epidermis (where the hair was) is the most valued part of the skin, and then the underside is the "suede" side. The left over by-product piece is often what we associate with suede today, a crappy rough-ish surface usable only for Halloween costumes as chaps. Suede itself has become the bottom of the leather barrel, so to speak.
Not so for 1930s suedes, they were the creme of the fashion product of their day. As modern leather makers sell "butter soft" jackets, their sales pitch is a misinterpretation of the jackets produced in the hey day of real leather jackets. The signifier has become so detached from the sign that leather production barely understands where and why soft leather became a fashion statement.
The word Suede derives from the term "gants de Suède" which translates gloves of Sweden. Suede is the split side of a skin, that was treated and sanded to create an open pored nap. This made suede soft and porous and perfect for the glove making industry. 1930s suede is quite unique and unlike any I have ever seen. The inside is always the top grain of the hide and the suede side is always a super super fine nap with the hide grain showing through. It is more like chamois than suede.
Ok, a little side note...chamois (the shammy) is a kind of South American goat. Chamois is made today by splitting and sanding lambskins and using only an oil tanning process. Chamois is super soft, porous and water absorbent and used for all sorts of fashion and industrial applications. 1930s suedes are very hide like but with the same qualities of chamois. The garments made with this leather were a clear counter statement to typical garments of the day. They were an expression of excess, clearly not utilitarian, no good for rough wear or use. So as an expression of wealth you could own a hard leather jacket for working or riding, and a soft leather jacket for fashionable nights out. These two jackets are great examples of those kinds of suede.
(they are for sale on ebay as well, for now!!)
That is why 'butter soft" is the sought after leather, but unfortunately it has become a misnomer!
Undergoing MyBlogLog Verification
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
I've been reading a lot of chatter about leather jackets lately. I am amazed at some of the closet historians out there, and dumbfounded by some "voices" in the discussion that are more tude then knowledge. I'm all for chat, even wrong headed chat, but geez make sure you know a little of what you speak or inform yourself.
A fellow recently expressed the query "why are Langlitz jackets so revered, the use the same designs and the leather doesn't seem that great?".
I thought about this a lot lately! It seemed to ask the question why is the present day maker Langlitz sought after by so many and paid a premium for (as perceived by this guy). First contextual note: Langlitz jackets may seem expensive from the perspective of this dude, but in the world of high fashion leather...Aero, Langlitz, Lost Worlds et al are actually quite low on the price scale. Sure, you could buy a 169 Pakistan special, or find yourselves bouncing down the highway in a Joe Rocket jacket with cool fake eternal spinal cords and alien padding, but from the perspective of leather 1200-2500 is right in the middle. If you had a custom jacket made by Bill Wall, you could pay upwards of 4000-5000 dollars. Routinely Italian designers charge 2500-15000 for their weird incarnations, and there are certainly places I don't know about where you could spend lots more for custom pieces. I don't think price is an issue when looking for quality. Price is for people who cant afford the best! I recently read a story published by Scottish Bag Pipe and Kilt manufacturers who have had their business' challenged by imported kilts, pipes and knives and such from the east. As these fine laddies point out, if your bag pipes, kilts and such are cheap knockoffs made in foreign countries, what is the point of celebrating the Scottish heritage. You could save 2000 bucks to put traditional Scottish craftsman out of business, nice ironic kilt wearing statement. I'm so cheap I put the Scots out of business!
Ok, so obviously moving on from price, why Langlitz. From my perspective, the first answer which is not so obvious has to do with trends. Rin Tanaka started a craze with his books on Motorcycle jackets available through Schiffer Publishing. More often than not ebay listings of good vintage jackets refer to Rins book when selling their wares. The craze began in Japan way back in the 1980s, where young and old dudes alike have been adoring and living the American dream of the "motorcycle" guy for years and it spread to American and European readers. Rintaros book celebrated the few remaining survivors in the Jacket business from the great imported cheap jacket kill off. At some point price outweighed quality. Sometime in the 1970s manufacturers chose to make money riding on the memory of their quality North American (and in some cases European) manufacture and ruined their brands producing in Japan, Pakistan, Turkey and South America. What happened was inevitable. Initially they profited in North America, then eventually these out of country manufacturers learned to make their own brands and circumvent their American counterparts. Simultaneously, consumers unlearned quality...they learned to purchase crappy jackets for cheap. Very quickly great brands could no longer compete with cheaper imports and bamn, no more good jackets. Worse, the cultural memory of what quality fit, fashion and materials were all but dead by the 1980s. I remember interviewing a fellow who ran Brimaco Leather Jacket Company in Montreal. He was the third generation of Jacket makers to take over the company which became a property management company in the 1990s. He said they tried everything to save money to out compete imports, right down to buying his own cattleskins and driving them to the tannery himself!!!
To the point Rin celebrated the last men standing so to speak. This meant Langlitz leathers. They had the patterns and the original resonance of Ross Langlitz who created the brand with his old school motorcycle values. The hand of Ross could still be felt on the jackets. Previous to these books, people were isolated who were into these values of quality. Now you have the resurgence of old brands; people are buying up old motorcycle brands like hotcakes from the hotcake vendor. Some are trying to recreate the quality like Lewis Leathers and some are not!
My other point regarding why Langlitz remains well sought after regards the way they manufacture. They remain small, choosing to produce 5 or so jackets a day. They choose to make custom pieces, which is a lost art today. They choose to use the best "NORTH AMERICAN LEATHER" available, which means you are dealing with ethically produced clothing. These are all very good choices for reasons I will not go into at the moment. Sometimes being really good at what you do and remaining true to the past is a good thing, there may be new guys in the business ( I want to be a new guy) but that doesn't detract from the "old guys". If you buy a Langlitz your buying a piece of brand history. I will point out many many companies moved offshore to make their stuff and ruined their brands Gandalf, and many of the hippy jacket companies absolutely destroyed their business' this way, Langlitz remained a craft business...and you are paying for craft. It is amazing that they are still here, and people buying their products are supporting that vision in its entire set of implications which is a good thing. We as a culture need to spend less on more, not more on less or we will kill ourselves, and I for one am happy to have one or two good things then 1000 crap pieces of garbage. Learn from the Japanese who cant afford big spaces and big houses so they fill their lives with big quality purchases of the little things in life, just like the people in American culture in the 1930s who invented these values!
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
UPDATE: I wrote the CRTC and the Prime Ministers Office:
Guess what, I got a nice form letter back with reference to the Minister they suggest I contact it said the follows:
Dear Mr. Himel:
On behalf of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, I would like to thank you for your e-mail, in which you raised an issue which falls within the portfolio of the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of Industry. The Prime Minister always appreciates receiving correspondence on subjects of importance to Canadians.
Please be assured that the statements you made have been carefully reviewed. I have taken the liberty of forwarding your e-mail to Minister Prentice, so that he too may be made aware of your comments. I am certain that the Minister will give your views every consideration. For more information on the Government's initiatives, you may wish to visit the Prime Minister's Web site, at www.pm.gc.ca.
Executive Correspondence Officer
for the Prime Minister's Office
Agent de correspondance
de la haute direction
pour le Cabinet du Premier ministre