Archival Clothing - Made in USA

Archive for 2008

The Original Muck Boot Vs. L.L. Bean

December 31st, 2008

We’re having a household dispute over the merits of LL Bean Maine Hunting boots over The Original Muck Boot Company brand boots.

S. claims that the Bean boots are more appropriate for the snow and ice of the East coast. She considers the Bean boot’s leather uppers and thin, chain tread inadequate for wet weather wear in the Northwest (specifically, for use in the heavy, high mud of our public dog parks and backyard). Her preferred boot model is the mid-calf Muck Boot (purchased from local, do-good mercantile, Down to Earth).

Friend Tom, a timber framer and West-to-East-to-West coast transplant, claims that steel toed Muck boots saved his foot (left or right?) from an errant chainsaw.

Despite functional claims in favor of the Muck Boot, I remain an admirer and dedicated user of the original Bean boot. For me, the Bean boot is all about its outward, vintage styling and that wonderful, abrupt transition from rubber bottoms to leather uppers (plus those great metal eyelets!). I admit that Bean boots, at times, can be a bit clammy and that the chain tread provides little in the form of a non-slip grip (in the end, the tread looks penciled on). However, the vintage, out-of-the-past styling of the Bean boots makes up for its functional limitations (Bean boots still keep my feet dry at the dog park). And I have to give a hand to LL Bean for building on the Maine Boot brand. While most of my favorite, affordable US shoe companies have moved production overseas (Sebago and Bass, for instance), Bean continues to manufacturer these boots in Maine.

It would be lovely if every US apparel and footwear company sifted through their backfiles and found one product, like the Bean Maine boot, that they could bring back and offer for sale in its original form (no updating or upgrading or boutiquing permitted). Mandatory: item must be made in the U.S.A. (preferably, near the original site of production).

Bubblewrapped brands: Levi’s® 501 Jeans

December 31st, 2008

As part of my holiday shopping ritual, I purchased a few pairs of original Levi 501s from local apparel retailer, Fred Meyer (substitute Kohl’s, JC Penney, etc). Each pair cost me 31.00, a sum which seemed quite fair and reasonable for a classic clothing staple. As far as I can tell, 501s have remained unchanged, fitwise, stylewise, since I began wearing them in junior high. Granted, the stitch and rivet count on the pants have no doubt dropped off and I’m not even going to check, but I’m pretty sure country of origin is no longer the U.S.A). Nevertheless, Levis give me one of my few chances to shop from the past (albeit, from Fred Meyer in 1988 rather than a Chicago department store in 1905).

Browsing JCREW to find for some clothing exchange possibilities, I came upon a special, slim fit edition of 501s (see example above). I continue to muse about the two-tiered, twin branding that continues to happen to many modern histiage brands like Woolrich and Red Wing (but so far, not to Filson). I’d love to own a pair of these special edition Levis but I wonder, really, whether the pricing and bonus styling corrupt the core product in some way.

I’ve been thinking about brand cushioning releases like these 501s

JCREW Levi’s 501 xx slim fit

Archival Lament: Woolrich Relaunch

December 30th, 2008
Woolrich illustration courtesy Cavidanny

Japanese Woolrich offerings

Growing up, Woolrich was always the default brand if you couldn’t afford Filson or wanted something lightweight for hiking or lakeside recreation.

As a brand, Woolrich pretty much disappeared from view (for me) in the 1990s. Every once in awhile, I’d see a ratty shadow plaid cruiser jacket at a thrift or encounter the troubling, Woolrich for women sportswear line (think, tanks and tees, in shades of lavender) at the local mall.

Now, it sounds like the Woolrich brand has been relaunched, reborn.

Regular Woolrich

Relicensed Woolrich

For me, these brand relaunches become a cruel, trickle down story. I’ll swoon over the pitch perfect re-do (vintage patterns, top workmanship, perfect styling, beautiful fabrics), but know that I’ll never be able to find, wear or afford a final sample.

The relaunched line will only make it to Brooklyn boutiques or overseas web shops (with a few token samples flown out to Seattle). What might, by haphazard shipping, show up in a contextually appropriate retail space (an outdoor or farming supply store, for example), would be sized for big gents or priced beyond the (reasonable) value of the garment (cosmic brand imbalance: webshop Woolrich costing more than stateside Filson).

I’d love to see newly licensed heritage brands, like Woolrich, come back as a mass market staples (with bonus sizing for the women and petite gents, since I’m dreaming). I see no reason why everyday folks wouldn’t enjoy sporting stylish workwear with a “vintage touch, Italian influence, designed by a Japanese designer” (High Snobiety, 26 July 2008).

Per normal, emails to the Woolrich USA have produced little information regarding the future availability of these licensed items, in Oregon, or petite sizing for women or reed-thin gents.

Examples of relaunched Woolrich courtesy of Sfilate

Archival Review: Randonneuring Season (2008)

December 28th, 2008

Passing views

Bike stalking

Evidence of my participation (first two photos courtesy CecilAnn)

Some central characters

The Pencil

Subject to further experimentation in ’09

Cue sheet in turmoil
Cue sheet on a napkin (courtesy CecilAnn)
Sample nutrition (jojos)

The Pencil and I did not quite make the RUSA 5000k distance award this year. We did complete our first Cascade 1200, survived a few Seattle International Randonneurs death brevets and pedaled through a very drowsy, 24 hour fleche Ouragan (on the same day Eight Belles broke down in the Derby).

Plans for 2009 remain hazy. Most likely, I’ll be heading down to California for the Davis Gold Rush 1200k or staying in the Northwest for the SIR iteration of the Seattle-to-Glacier 1000k (a ride I did two years, on the Oregon side, from Portland to Glacier).

On a localized level, I’ll be focusing on improving my navigational skills (actually monitoring the line-by-line elapse of my cue sheet) and conducting more micro saddle adjustment experiments (I’m in brand limbo between Brooks and Selle An-Atomica w/a Brooks Imperial in consideration).

The Pencil and I remain on good terms despite the fact that its retro, Bicycle Quarterly inspired drivetrain still terrifies me during slow shifts on super steep grades. At some point, in the next year or so, the Pencil may be readied for rando-retirement in a muddy pasture with cyclocross tracks.

Archival confession: I must admit that randonneuring requires the use of some synthetic clothing layers. I try to make use of as much wool as possible–namely jerseys and extremity warmers. But alas, I’m sadly sold on the superior, wind blocking, moisture repelling properties of tech treated plastic fabrics (in the form of jackets, vests and shoes). There is one gent in our club, Drew, who builds his own bicycles, makes his own sports drink, designs his own bike luggage and wears brown leather lace-up dress shoes, full wool outerwear and a cycling helmet that was ANSI certified in the 1970s. He remains a randonneuring hero to me though I know I can no longer follow his dress code on rides longer than 40 miles.

Archival Review: Handlebar Bags

December 28th, 2008
Ostrich Bag (Velo-Orange)

Custom jobber, Dan Boxer Bicycles (not for sale)

Lynne F’s Acorn (the new champ)

Rivendell Boxy Baggins Bag (no longer available)

Gilles Berthoud GB 2086 Handlebar Bag (Wallingford Bicycles)

Ruth’s Tough Traveler

Inujirushi Handlebar Bag (Jitensha Studio or Japan)
Gilles Berthoud Mini 86 (mine, sewn by Veronique!)

Vertical stacking load

In situ

Pencil Vs. Berthoud

Archival Addendum: Windsor Wear

December 24th, 2008

I’m going to start a memorial garden honoring classic Archival brands that have gone out of business in my lifetime (or within recent memory).

In a recent post on Roberts Supply Co, I showed an image of a black wool henley sweater made by Windsor Wear. As it turns out, Windsor Wear is out of business and this henley is no longer in production (despite the fully stocked shelves at Roberts). Thanks to some research by readers, I discovered that Windsor was bought out by Stanfield’s, although I’m told that the Stanfield woolens are no longer made out of 100% wool.

Here is a note I received from a salesperson at David Morgan:

Windsor Wear was bought by a company called Stanfield’s. While they are still producing the union suits, tops and bottoms in the “black” underwear line, it is no longer 100% wool. It is now an 80/20%, wool & cotton. We have a small top and a medium bottom in the old style (100% percent wool) and have the suits, tops and bottoms in the new style. If you do a search on our site for wool underwear you should come up with them.

Remaining stock of 100% wool Windsor Wear henleys available at David Morgan, The Montana Woolen Shop, Bemidji Woolen Mills and of course, Roberts Supply Co.

Engrave Windsor Wear on the memorial garden marker alongside Frost River, Hebden Cord, Alpendale and [X?].

Here’s what happens when quality brands pass into the ether.

Archival Holiday

December 22nd, 2008

Y’All Come!

Heading out for a few days to do some field work. In lieu of radio silence or an electronic yule log, I leave you with a few stills from the Lawrence Welk Thanksgiving special (the Christmas edition features for too many cringe-inducing shots of non-musical children wandering around the stagge). If You Tube were a true total archives of deadstock media, I’d be linking to my holiday hit song, “Y’All Come.” Instead, here’s a link to the ersatz version sung by Daisy Duke and Loretta Young and a very special episode of the Dukes of Hazard. Insert snow

Thanksgiving not Christmas specia (which features far too many toothy shots of non-musical children wandering around the stage). Bring on Bobby and Cissy!

Films I’ll be screening in the next few days

Snow: Saddest Music in the World,
Survival: Island in the Sky, Heroes of the Telemark
Pomp: Ben Hur
Nostalgia: Holiday Inn
Never: Holiday Affair, Christmas in Connecticut

Shopping from Japan: French Work Jackets

December 22nd, 2008

French Work Jacket–Dead Stock (Explorer Import Select Shop)

Workwear clothing shop, Charleville-Mezieres, France

Gilles Berthoud mechanic, Pierrot, in his blue work coat

Welding a rack at Cycles Gilles Berthoud

I’ve been a longtime admirer of the restylized, Kempel-brand blue work jackets sold by the Japanese web shop, Explorer. This style of jacket has a tailored yet unstructured look w/a button-up front and three or four open pockets (Jacquie Bonner revision: all jackets should have at least three external pockets). Unlike American work clothing, it lacks zippers, pleats or fussy design details which might limit its use for everyday (non-work) wear. Several years ago, the Explorer shop sold a Harris tweed version of the Kempel jacket which could have doubled as a snazzy dress jacket. I’m still searching my image archives for a photograph of that jacket model.

In France, I tried to buy my own blue work jacket. I couldn’t locate the Kempel brand and what I ended up purchasing was made out of cheap cotton and had a bad, boxy fit. In the end, I repurposed the jacket as a lab coat for processing film.

In the theatrical treatment of my workplace, everyone would wear blue Kempel work coats over snappy tweed blazers, plus fours and cordovan loafers (or tweed Kempel work jackets over khaki suits and Crockett and Jones Coniston boots).

Bill Laine of Wallingford Bicycle Parts was kind enough to permit me to reprint a few photos of Pierrot, top mechanic at (bicycle frame and bagmaker) Gilles Berthoud, wearing his own blue coat in situ. A full image set of Bill’s visit to Gilles Berthoud can be viewed here.