Thursday, May 22, 2008

Colourful Displays and Tough Guys!!!!

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So I found myself explaining the two tone 1930s wool jacket with a grommet zipper to a friend the other day. My friend suggested that the jacket style and design was a bit "swishy", perhaps less manly. I was shocked! I suddenly realised that I had a very different concept of manliness then todays 21 century view. I find metrosexuality ridiculous. I think many of the designer jackets made today are full of frivolity and uselessness, extra buckles and meaningless pockets. But I still need to explain why these colorful old jackets are still tough guy jackets.

Metrosexuality is a co-optation of gay culture by straight men. Someone mistranslated the message. In the 1930s men had a uniform, either a suit or a military uniform, or perhaps work jackets and pants or other socially prescribed outfits. Those who wore leather jackets, or other kinds of jackets were often seen as rebels, or adventurers. Those that wore colourful leather jackets, or customized jackets were seen as uber-rebels. Bright colours attract attention, customization attracts attention; when you broke the fashion codes of the uniform you were attracting the attention of others, and if you wore the uniform of the rebel, you attracted extra attention. This story of rebellion didn't mean that the jackets were frivolous, just the opposite, still practical and utilitarian but with extra "bad-ass". Gay culture also expressed this version of "bad-ass" in many of it's vintage fashion statements reflective of the hyper-masculinity celebrated by gays. But this hyper-masculinity today is definitely not to be confused with "metrosexuality".

Friday, May 16, 2008

Early Leather Design and the Automobile

In the early days of motorcycle jacket design principals were embedded that affected both the shape and construction of leather jackets. Fashion while a componant of design was not the paramount influencing factor. Utility and quality often trumped design and flourish, which is clearly the opposite of the current trends of offshore manufacture. The best jackets often culminated in the perfect blend of practical design and flamboyant personal expression, like the agressive fierce explosion of a mating mandrill or the bright coloured dance of the peacock! This sort of colourful expression would be an example of early threatening fashion which down the line would culminate with the baggy colourful explosions of hiphop fashion and other modern trends.

The early designers often drew from what they knew. The industrial age of the plane and the motorcycle displaced the earlier cavalry of the military. The earliest protective gear made for motorcyclists and tankers parroted the practical designs of the Cavalry. Compare these early 1935 Jodphurs fashioned from wool and leather to these 1940s European motorcycle riding pants. The distinction between horseback riding and motorcycle riding was indistinguishable

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Durable, Canadian Branding and America

The 1920s was an interesting time for leather jacket manufacturers. Before the boom of radio and later t.v., North America was reliant on printed media to spread marketing and brand. The majority of the economy was centered around ports of call, and the major transport system was the Great Lakes Waterways. This made the port cities on these lakes the major producers of the great transportation revolution. Cars, planes and motorcycles needed the appropriate gear to go along. The modern motorcycle jacket and other leather jackets were based on the primitive designs that had always been used in Europe for horseback riding and work wear. The American jacket was born of the cross fertilisation of those Euro styles with Native American wear, rugged wear required to settle North America and innovative designs to adapt to the modern age and technology. This innovation often happened in a vacuums as different companies rarely had opportunities to see each others designs until catalogues were printed or big stores could distribute. Early jackets have great historical importance because of these isolated innovations. Check out this awesome early Durable Brand Canadian Jacket. Durable survived many many years producing utility jackets for many police forces. I have a great many of these jackets, and I'm pretty sure I read that Schott bought the company at some point. This early jacket would indicate that the company probably started under a different name and that they had in fact two locations: one at the Port of Vancouver; and one in Ottawa the capital city of Canada. This usually indicated a family presence in both cites, as well as an unusual example of east west marketing to capture leather markets up and down both coasts. The jacket pictured has the classic early primitive pre-zipper design, which included generous eggplant per portions to accommodate riding pants under the jacket. Not flattering but very useful.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Anxiety, Sleeplessness and Startups

"True entrepreneurs are basically unemployable. Nobody wants a former boss as an employee. They don't just fade away, they start new companies." I stole this quote from a blog this morning after a night without sleep!

At a crossroads with my life, I'm 41 and looking for a change. Last night there was no sleep for me. I had a dream that I met an angel, and she took me under her wing. She installed inspiration: patterns, design, sewing, tanning...everything and everyone I know came back to me all at do I harness this and at what point do I need to be the "man" who knows it all myself. Entrepreneurs are control freaks by nature...successful or not I can't stand not being in control! I can't seem to get past my mind explosion regarding this crap...where is the angel? I really don't want another night of sleeplessness. On that note, check out this pre-war suede jacket that I will be selling this week. The suede is thick leather, with some sort of damage that beat up the jacket. Very authentic. My favorite aspect of these early jackets is the variety of blanket liners that early makers used. This one is a high quality check plaid, which added a soft warm quality to the beautiful suede. It is amazing to see the custom qualities of pre-war jackets regarding liners because by the 1950s makers started using standardized rayon insulated liners that really cheapened the quality of 1950s jackets. That flannel liner represents the precursor of the paradigm shift from small custom shops to big production industrial makers of the 1950s like Sears and Buco.