Thursday, March 19, 2009

J.P. Sartre...The New Age and the Overcoat






Since I turned 40 I have lived with a strange sense of regret and nostalgia. Apart from the obvious which is that I dive through dead peoples clothing for a living there are many things about this new age that bother my core. Many of the best people that shaped my life have died, and many of the new ideas I thought might change the world in the end corrupted it. I grew up reading everything I could find in non fiction and science fiction. By the time I was 14 I was one messed up well read punk. J.P. was one of my greatest influences. I often wonder what Sartre would have thought of the corporate bastards on Wall Street and their philosophical inner selves. Does a trader ever suffer existential inner angst and nausea...or does his limited existence free him up from any responsibility that those who fear god live in...hopefully some will find out in jail! J.P. was a cool dresser and loved his old things. Look at these beautiful ancient canvass coats he used to wear. They used to bind you up like a canvass and sheepskin cocoon against the harshness of reality and reflect the zeitgeist of the period when they were made...that is what they were for. I have this European number on Ebay as we speak and it is unbelievable..it reminds me of a time when at least people questioned their reason for existence and feared for it!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Langlitz, Color, and Aging.....Customize








Like the Peacock and the Mandrill, colors are a way of warning off predators. When you wear bright colors your not just saying look at me..I'm beautiful, you are also saying "Look at me...I might kick your ass!!". In the world of custom jackets this is also true, like a peacock this beautiful Langlitz custom Cascade jacket is just stunning and would have been worn to protect and attract attention, and like the Mandrill, the Chimayo jacket didn't just say I'm cool..it said I'm so tough that you might think I'm freaky but if you say anything...I will wipe the floor with you! Thus manhood and customization go hand in hand!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Raw Denim, Raw Leather and Aging













A lot of questions pop into the head when trying to create the perfect leather jacket. In my observations around reproduced clothing I spend a lot of time thinking about Raw versus Worn versus Aged. I love worn out clothing. I sell vintage clothing, and what I am really selling is character. Character is what happens when someone possesses something, lives in it wears it out, imparts and imbues their experiences upon the existence of the thing and gives it new life! We can build outward from our face and bodies to our things. We live in the world and the farmer gets deep creases relaying his years in the field, the comic gets deep laugh lines and the proper lady remains pale and wrinkle free. Clothing is very similar. For years since the late seventies pre-aging was being sold and progressively scaled up. In the 1950s you would buy a pair of raw denim Levis, shrink them, not take them off and bam after a month or two, those cardboard like iron denim pants would start to soften, with faint lines appearing beneath the dark blue indigo ringspun denim. Stone washing, preshrinking, bleaching hacking, faking patching and destroying, volcano washing and all other forms of nonsense have created today's silly jean. Now you can buy a jean that will last one year with its prehacked wear before your package falls out of the blown out crotch and onto the stool. I believe in raw denim. I'm sitting in deadstock 646 1970s indigo bell bottoms that are just getting soft now after wearing them for 2 months. I sell vintage ones for the lazy and under worked who cant find the time to wear out their own jeans and leathers.

Why pictures of leather and the tannery? Well, the big question is how new should leather look before it is made into a jacket. How hard was the leather in a 1940s leather jacket when it was new. And how much character should a skin have before it is sewn into a jacket. Look at these skins they already tell such a great story from birth, life and sadly to death, just like me...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Partisans, Chiam and Leather






I have lived in the same place for 20 years..right in the heart of the "Schmata" district in Toronto. While I came and went from my home base, one of my constants was Chaim. 16 years day in and day out Chaim would greet me with a growl and an insult in Yiddish, Azerbaijani, Serbo-Croatian, Polish or one of a gazillion languages he spoke. He called me "Reb Kalef" or Rabbi Dog in English. Chaim came from a village in Poland near to my Grandfather..when the Nazis moved in and started slaughtering Jews, 16 year old Chaim grabbed his father's gun with two of his brothers and fled into the forest. He joined a desperate group of Jewish partisans grabbing food where they could and slowly made his way through Poland, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, eventually ending up in Cyprus, Israel and then Canada. Chaim was one cranky tough little bastard.
Chaim taught me a lot about the clothing business. I learned things I didn't get a chance to learn from my Grandfather who died the year I was born. I was thinking of Chiam when I went to see Defiance starring my wife's favorite actor Daniel Craig. I enjoyed the film in spite of its "classic Hollywood" foibles and obvious sentimentality, but as per usual was much disappointed with the leather. This was a 50-50 split as Craig's jacket while aged to look super old was designed completely off kilter for a period jacket, from the zippers, to the collar, back yolk, and other bits (I think I saw stretchy banding and leather on the back typical of a 1950s jacket). Liev's jacket on the other hand was very authentic for the period. Partisans would have been wearing Russian or German leather from the prewar period basically 1915 to about 1940. I did some research and came up with some actual pictures some of the troop in the movie. In actuality there were over 1200 people living in a makeshift village in the Polish forest, they even had their own leather shop and tannery, imagine that! I miss being yelled at by Chaim everyday...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Joshua Jackson's One Week and Brimaco!








It is not often that as a Canadian I get to brag about vintage leather jackets and Canada. This week Joshua Jackson of Dawsons Creek fame is premiering in a movie called "One Week" in which he discovers that he has terminal cancer and decides to take a one week road trip on his motorcycle across Canada. I can't tell you how excited I was to see a life size cut out of Joshua in his Brimaco, British Cycle Riders jacket from Montreal. It is often believed that all of the early great motorcycle jacket companies and creative original designs came from the U.S.A. but this is not true. Brimaco was one of the earliest leather jacket companies in North America. I had the pleasure to interview the owner about his company 4 years ago. The man was 76 years old. He stated Brimaco opened before 1900 by his "grandfather". Brimaco's stock and trade was the clearly "British" style cafe racer, which they manufactured very early on. Though I cannot claim they invented the style, when I asked if he was aware of the other motorcycle jacket companies he claimed that there was fair trade on design and technique. Where it is clear that Brimaco copied the Harley Cycle Champ...it is possible that others copied the style and fit of their cafe racer...I'm just going to show a comparison of a Beck early cafe that I have on ebay with a similar Brimaco cafe racer in profile. Go Joshua I hope this movie does well and explodes on screens everywhere!