Thursday, February 26, 2009
In upcoming blogs Im going to write about the history of zippers, hopefully interview two old time bikers from the 1950s, and if I am lucky I will have an interview with one of the descendants of Archie's Riders. In the meantime there were some absolutely beautiful jackets that were traded this week and I cant help myself but post some images on my blog!!
If any of my faithful readers have old family photos, or a family member who bought, sold or made leather or have any other great images or stories, I am always looking for new information, material and images to publish. Send em my way!!!
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
To wear or not to wear? This is not necessarily the question! I own a bazillion jackets and people often wonder "where do they come from" . Apart from the obvious which is I buy them, I too ask the same question. I recognize the history of post war American culture and I know all to well its artifacts, but with each new jacket I acquire, the life of the person in the jacket is a mystery.
Ok, so we know vintage things come from estates which brings up sooo many questions. Look at this lovely set of jackets, and believe me their were photos, club patches, hats, boots, belts, other biker jackets, cloth jackets, a scrapbook and many other memories in this estate. I saw these items auctioned off and sold as pieces. There was this strange sense of sadness. Think about it, a man or woman, predeceased by their spouse, lovelingly held on to their club outfits and memories for their duration of life. They died and no relative was interested in claiming their past, no friend was left and these beautiful items of clothing were thrown on to the open market. All those memories of him and her, all those scratches and wrinkles in the jackets sold off to new riders and collectors. Should these pieces have stayed together, or be sold and used by new enthusiasts who will love and care for them as much as this couple who built them did?
It makes me happy that people care enough to want to buy these pieces of the past, and yet it makes me sad that in some way they didnt go as one lot to a museum commemorating the love and consideration that these two had for each other!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Ok, this is a bit of a cryptic post and will require stretching your ear a lot! I was listening to the radio today excited for Obama's first foreign trip, to Canada!!! It has always been tradition for the U.S. President to make his first trip to Canada, until that jerk Bush decided he didn't like Canada because it was too far away from Texas or something or other. Well, we here in Canada we love Obama, almost as much as we dislike Bush. Im personally hoping this guy can work out some miraculous solution to this mess George Jr created. Ok, so whats all this about Canada, the US and Mexico. A lot of people don't realize that workers used to travel pretty freely between borders in North America. It was not only routine for cattle from Texas to be run up to Canada but that the borders were barely even defined in the early 1900s. Mexican workers, American workers and Canadian workers would go to where ever there was work. Companies would open factories where ever there were customers. So Carhartt for example would have a factory in Detroit, Toronto and many other cities. If you were ever interested in how beautifully and respectfully our countries got along just read the John Dos Passos Triology. Dos Passos was a Portuguese American journalist who captured in his novels the most vivid pictures of early North America and our economies. It is a lesson for the stupid protectionists and xenophobes on all sides of the border.
What is unknown is that the U.S. and Canada are the world's oldest biggest longest sexiest trading partner on the planet. Im going to tell the story of the Mackinaw. Mackinaws are those cool wool jackets that keep everyone warm and dry. Ever wonder where they came from. Early leather jackets were always marketed with Mackinaw liners. They were advertised as the coats with a durable leather shell and warm wool liner that precursed the quality blanket liners of the 1940s !
Mackinaws were invented by a Canadian in Canada when Canada was America! How about that. Mackinac is a derivation of a Menomini or Ojibwe word "Michilimackinac". The c is silent. Legend has it the Mackinaw was made by Metis sewers commissioned by Loyalist "Canadian" John Askin. Askin was a merchant and fur trader in the the area where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron. He ran successful business in the fur trade and moved in and around the floating U.S. British border in the period. He was said to have commissioned the first Mackinaws for the military but ran out of blue wool and created the classic red and black check jacket out of necessity. This invention around 1800 was created when the Detroit area was Canada then America then Canada (after the treaty of Ghent) and on and on. It was the standard cold weather coat by 1910. In a short 100 years borders were decided and business was booming setting up the stage for all the great small companies and innovators of the early 20th century leather making. It is amazing to imagine all this style resulted from the cross fertilization of Irish and Native necessity. That is how long and lovely our countries have intertwined. Think that this very area of trade between natives, British and early Americans became the area of the automobile, and the "Mac" jacket became the motorcycle jacket of the future in the same spot!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
A while back I wrote about Durabil jackets and this beautiful 1918 model leather jacket with its incredible primitive design. I often ask myself why I blog, and more and more I'm realizing it is about my interest even obsession with history. The history of 20th century fashion is completely misrepresented by the media and even the people who often love it best. The story of 20th century clothing is the very story of Canadian and American immigration and the rise of North America as global superpower. Not just that story but the story of developing industrialism, and the secret kabals of Jewish immigrants and their rise in the formerly British and American dominated clothing trade.
Grant, Holden, Graham Ltd was an early transcontinental company based in Vancouver and Ottawa, that traversed the railroad servicing adventurers on both sides of North America. Like an early Colemans, the company specialized in Duck Canvas. Their catalog included everything from tents and early tent car conversions, to sails, awnings, hot air balloons, bags, and any other need or item manufactured from duck canvass. And following the theme of the adventurer, they added to their line camp stoves, sleeping bags, outdoor adventure gear, and the Durabil leather jacket. These were software added to their main line. It is amazing to see how early industrial brands defined themselves!
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Ok so what the hell does that title mean? Well one of my devoted customers sent me an article from Newsweek which explored the link between authentic American clothing and the obsession in Japan which allows Americans to purchase "real" clothes in the U.S.
The article is moderately intersting in so far as it surveys in the vaguest detail trends in Japan coming home to roost in America. Part of my business is to not only identify trends in vintage clothing but in fact to initiate those trends by selling to the boutique stores in Japan and designers here in N.A. Those designers "Double RL, Abercrombie..et al" come to guys like me to find clothing to "knock" off. The real trend over the last couple of years has been to recreate in varying degrees of authenticity, early North American work wear. This is rife with irony. Unionized Labourers (mostly Jewish and Italian) came from Europe to produce some of the finest clothing of the new industrial age in Canada and the U.S. and now American companies are copying it (mostly in Asia) and bringing it back to America. Im not going into the whys, whats, rights and wrongs of this process. What I find most intriguing is that all of this fertilization is inspired by and spawned by the Japanese (the first China..knockoff wise in the 1960s and 70s) and their obsession with American Authenticity. My Japanese customers know more about American clothing than Americans. Walter Benjamin, Literary critic who was murdered by the Germans in ww2 wrote the keystone article regarding authenticity "in the age of mechanical reproduction" which asked the question what is "authenticity" in a reiefed mass produced culture. This question of mass production, value and quality turns out to be the keystone of our current global economic meltdown. While centralised garbage is being pumped out of China, and bankers (like the pigs at Merrill who gave themselves 3.6 billion (revised to super pigs) in bonus' this year of U.S. tax payers money) suck the economy dry, a movement toward traditionalism of early "late capitalist production values" is on the move. Japan, a country of few natural resources and space has spearheaded this movement for many reasons that I will explore in coming months in my blog.
Ok enough of that. Why the pictures of the Buco jackets? Buco is one of the most revered motorcycle jacket brands in Japan. Buco produced some of the most iconic designs ever in Detroit Michigan. Nice Jewish immigrants the "Bugeleisen" family were masters of their trade for a generation. They eventually spawned multitudes of copiests, and were eventually like many of the great Schmata companies retired into oblivion unable to compete with the cheap knockoffs from Japan, and South America. These two jackets are recent acquisitions which I am going to put up for sale on ebay in the coming weeks. Both sz. 40 they come from an old time biker in California who is in his 70s. Every 15 years he bought himself a new jacket, notice the custom spot work on the belts. This is real Americana at its best!!!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
"The Slow Food movement was founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy to combat fast food. It claims to preserve the cultural cuisine and the associated food plants and seeds, domestic animals, and farming within an ecoregion. It was the first established part of the broader Slow movement. The movement has since expanded globally to over 83,000 members in 122 countries." from Wikipedia
Slow food for clothing is not a dissimilar concept. My politics are all about regionalism. That doesn't means I only consume production from the GTA, Ontario or Canada it means I love and respect regionally created goods made with care and tradition with a nice slow old school anti technology edge! This means...I love scotch, especially small batch scotch from Scotland. I love balsamic vinegar..especially from Modena..and I looooooove North American vintage leather jackets...city by city, maker by maker. I believe we need to consume less, I believe we need to know where the things we buy are made and by whom. Essentially I believe in craftsmanship not as a "brand concept made on the computers of an advertising agency", not as a "long past fantasy the exists in the ether of the past", but as reality of day to day existence. This concept is so foreign to today's commercial production that it is almost impossible to implement. I am working locally to come up with recipes for original veg. tanned leather from the pre 1940s. Wow, everything is stacked against these traditions, the chemistry, the quality of the skins everything. Philosophically we need to take this approach to consuming in order to save the world from the heaps of garbage and joblessness impending on the horizon. If we dont make better things, more traditionally and with the kind of quality that we used to we will exhaust our resources and our well being.
Just a thought.