Archival Clothing - Made in USA

Archive for March, 2011

Synthetic Exceptions: Wind Vests for Cyclists

March 31st, 2011
Framebuilder Dan Boxer wearing a discontinued wool Ibex vest in June

Standard issue, safety yellow, synthetic vest worn by Audrey A.

Karl, Eugene Tweed Ride participant, sporting wool Filson liner as cycling vest. Recommended for low speed cycling or cyclo-commuting only.

Use value of wind vest declines at rest

When shopping from the present, I try to source products that are made in their traditional country of origin from materials that are durable, all natural and will wear evenly with use. In most cases, I’m able to find something that I would categorize as archival.

For my sport of randonneuring, or long distance cycling, I’ve had to compromise on some of my purchasing decisions. Most performance oriented cycling gear is produced offshore out of synthetics fabrics. For short distance commutes, I’m fine wearing everyday, non-sport specific clothing on my bike. Here, one can easily default to wearing vests and jackets made from wool, moleskin or cotton duck. But for ultra distance rides, I always wear a synthetic vest over my wool kit to block wind, regulate temperature and prevent chill. While many cyclists prefer full sleeved jackets, the synthetic wind vest provides a protective barrier without causing overheating. Alas, I’ve never found a wool or natural fabric version of a vest that performs better than its synthetic counterpart.

That being said, here’s what I caught and released from a recent shopping project.


Boure Pro Wind Vest. Best in class. Still made in Colorado. Customization possible. Unisex sizing. Supplex nylon front, mesh back. Ideally, Boure would add a two-way zip for maximum ventilation.

Sugoi Zap Vest. Shaped body panels on this one make the fit a little strange. Although I hate brightly colored fabrics, I almost always default to bright yellow for my wind vests for maximum visibility. If you’re going with a bright yellow material, why not add more bold reflective striping?

Louis Garneau Vent 2 Vest. Garneau is one of my favorite cycling brands. They produce well thought out, well structured cycling garments at a reasonable, non premium pricepoint. I love that this vest includes a two-way zipper, an essential feature on any vest or jacket. Reflective striping could be maximized.

Pearl Izumi vest (discontinued model). My old standby. As with most synthetic garments, the material on this vest does not age well with use. Dirt and grime cannot be removed.
Alp-X Zip Off jacket. Interesting option from Gore Bike Wear, another favorite brand. If I didn’t have to pay an extra $99 for the sleeves, I’d keep this jacket and use it exclusively as a vest. The vest/jacket has two front pockets, a two way zip and fits perfectly. Gore makes a wind vest for women but color availability is currently limited to white and black–unacceptable colors for a cycling vest.

Not pictured is my dream vest, not available, which would be manufactured by Showers Pass, a Portland Oregon company. I wear the Elite 2.0 jacket throughout the winter and wish there were a vest equivalent. It would be made of the same breathable, durable eVENT fabric and have a two way zipper and a mesh back.

Tom and I often chatter about creating an Archival wind vest that would incorporate waxed fabrics, archival design details, but also make use of some modern synthetics. Stay tuned for future developments.

Shopping from the Past: Poirier Pack Sacks

March 31st, 2011

The auction for an original Poirier pack sack from 1882 continues on ebay. The buy it now price has been reduced from six figures to a reasonable $44,000. If that price seems steep, consider ordering a 1918 edition of the same basic bag directly from the Poirier Tent & Awning Co. “For motor or hike, it’s equally serviceable, commodious and dependable.” If you send away for Pack Sack literature, inquire about the fur-lined sleeping bags. I would love to see photographs and reprint a reader’s field review.

From the Archives: Women War Workers

March 17th, 2011
“Chippers.” Women war workers of Marinship Corp, 1942


The U.S. National Archives just released these terrific photos of female war workers from WW II. The images are part of NARA’s Women in WW II series. Original captions are included below.

U.S. Army nurses, newly arrived, line the rail of their vessel as it pulls into port of Greenock, Scotland, in European Theater of Operations.

Secretaries, housewives, waitresses, women from all over central Florida are getting into vocational schools to learn war work. Typical are these in the Daytona Beach branch of the Volusia county vocational school., 04/1942

Women man America’s machines in a west coast airplane factory, where the swing shift of drill press operators is composed almost entirely of women., 05/1942

Auxiliaries Ruth Wade and Lucille Mayo (left to right) further demonstrate their ability to service trucks as taught them during the processing period at Fort Des Moines and put into practice at Fort Huachuca, Arizona., 12/08/1942

With the grade and dexterity of a master dressmaker, this young woman fabricates “pup” tents for the expanding war army at the Langdon Tent & Awning Company., ca. 06/1941

Building assault boats for U.S. Marine Corps. by women workers., ca. 12/1941

Training in marksmanship helps girls at Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles, Calif., develop into responsible women. Part of Victory Corps activities there, rifle practice encourages girls to be accurate in handling firearms., 08/1942

Archival Update: A.C. Plain and Flap Musettes

March 16th, 2011

A.C. has just taken delivery of a new stock of plain and flap musettes. We’re offering a few new colorways including a red waxed cotton plain musette and new black and navy waxed twill flap musettes.

While our musettes are designed for cycling and everyday use, we were pleased that Apartment Therapy Unplggd endorsed our bags for ipad portage.

And in case you missed our production tour of T & J sewing, here are a few more shots of the flap musettes being sewn by owner Terry Shuck.

Black waxed twill flap musette w/khaki strap

Navy waxed twill flap musette w/khaki strap

Red plain musette (now $40)

Plain musette colorways

Flap musette colorways

Archival Baggage: De Martini Messenger Bags

March 8th, 2011
Outside De Martini shop, NYC, mid-1990s

Basic model, De Martini messenger bag



I bought my first bike messenger bag from De Martini/Globe Canvas in the mid 1990s. I had read about the De Martini bags, and the company’s owner, Frank De Martini, a sail-maker by trade, in Bicycle Guide magazine. At the time, De Martini was supplying sturdy, affordable, canvas messenger bags to many of NYC’s bike messengers. The company’s shop was located in a basement on Mott Street in Little Italy. Orders were taken in person at the shop. Cash sales only. Bags in various stages of production were piled on the floor. I stepped over them to make my purchase.

Modern messenger bags have morphed into urban briefcases constructed from modern technical fabrics, w/complicated pocketing systems, plastic hardware, side-cam shoulder straps and special inserts for computers and business cards. In contrast, my original De Martini bag has a simple, elemental design. The bag is lined with bright yellow truck tarping that keeps out moisture and makes the contents of the bag more visible. I carry mine for postal deliveries in the rain. The heavy canvas duck exterior keeps out the elements and holds up well to use. I’ve owned this bag for 15 years and it only shows low level wear and tear.

Here’s a partial reprint of a story on De Martini that ran in the NY Times on August 4, 1985

One Man’s Art: Bags for Messengers

A street hatch opens onto a steep well of crooked stairs. Below, large spools of colored canvas lean against old tables and sewing machines, while flourescent lights vie for ceiling space with huge pipes. Scissors and awls lie about and pictures of schooners line the walls.

This is the underground shop of Frank Martini, the 76-year-old owner and sole employee of the Globe Canvas Company at 177 Mott Street. A sail maker by trade, he began making bicycle messenger bags 20 years ago. He has sold them wholesale to the more than 50 bike messenger services in New York ever since. No one else makes messenger bags, although some have tried.

”Everybody gets them from him,” said Glen Janus, a spokesman for Streetwise, a messenger service that has used the bags throughout its 10 years of business. ”He’s a legend.”

On Cyclists’ Backs

While Mr. Martini labors below ground, his work hugs the backs of speeding cyclists above who appreciate how the bag conforms to odd-size parcels, adjusts to unevenly weighted loads and endures heavy rains. Wearing his bag over his shoulder, Giovanni Headley, a veteran messenger, said, ”If you take good care of it, it will take good care of you.”

Bag making, which began with a request from one of the first bicycle messenger services 20 years ago, has taken the place of sails and boat work as Mr. Martini’s regular business. Though he has received orders from Airborne Air Freight, the people who post subway advertisements and Columbia Pictures, the bags are almost the exclusive domain of bicycle messengers.

”These kids need bags,” Mr. Martini says. ”Without a bag these kids can’t go to work.”

Many Buy in Bulk

Many messenger companies either buy the bags in bulk or have their messengers buy them from Mr. Martini. Some companies will hire only messengers who have their own bags.

”If I sell them to stores, they’ll charge them $30 or $40,” Mr. Martini says. ”That’s highway robbery.” Bags bought from him cost $20, a price that reflects the sympathy he frequently shows his young clientele. ”Most of their work goes toward tuition money,” he says. ”I like that.”

Bag making is a study in fluid and frenzied craftmanship. Mr. Martini, slicing and sewing, can whip through several bags in about 20 minutes, stopping only to curse ancient sewing machines that cannot keep up with him.

The canvas is cut into sides. Then, tossing rulers out of his way and shoving a large L-shaped table against one of several sewing machines, Mr. Martini attaches a Velcro strip, the first seal, and, as a second seal, two buckles with straps. In short order, he fastens inner pocket, flap and shoulder strap. Every stitch is reinforced, often as many as nine times.

”There isn’t much handwork done anymore,” he says, looking at the finished bags. ”Everything’s done by machines. I don’t need them.”

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