I’m swooning over the French aviators (and their uniforms) found in a new Flickr album uploaded by archival image maven, Pillpat. Check it out, noting all the new-to-my-eyes, sartorial details: unique pullovers, cool tunics, curious collars, striped socks and military-duty clogs. Sign me up for any branch of service that issues such lovely off-duty garb (off-duty, in this case, consisting ofcafe confabs and larky posing for the camera). Marking these snaps as catalog fodder for my aspirational clothing company.
Heddels asked me to identify my “item number one,” that is, the thing I’ve owned the longest (and still use semi-regularly). Read about my rare Filson Mackinaw Cruiser for women and follow the complete series here. And reference snaps below. What is your item number one?
Filson Mackinaw Cruiser with its rare cardigan fit
Minimal signs of wear after twenty years of hard wear
Click over to Heddels to read my latest Ward Order Blank column: Duckbill Dynasty – the Cap We Want Back. Here are some of the photos of caps I collected during the research phase of writing this piece.
Original Archival designer, Tom Bonamici, models a Filson shelter cloth duckbill.
One of my faves: Filson short billed cap in tin cloth. The leather sweatband and fitted style sadly disappeared in the last generation of these caps.
Handsome cap shape looks terrific from above.
Not a duckbill, but I dug a little into the history of caps used in the film, Empire of the Sun.
WW2 issue summer flying cap. I love the numerical markings on the brim (a tradition worth bringing back?).
David Mamet movies are peppered with duckbill caps. Gene Hackman sporting a Quaker Marine cap in Heist (2001).
Military issues morphed into hunting headgear in the 1950s and 1960s.
Cavalcade of stars – Filson duckbill lineup in the cap style’s salad days. Merino, poplin, and waxed cotton versions all on offer. Ah, to go back in time and buy them all up.
The Library of Congress flickr stream yields some of the best historic examples of shawl collar cardigans. During a periodic review, I surfaced these 1918 scans of baseball player Mike Donlin sporting a very heavy gauge cardigan with an unusual throat latch detail. I’m not a baseball fan, but I can’t get enough of these Bain News Service photos of players and coaches from this very stylish era. The players dress like spectactors (in sweaters, blazers, leather shoes, and collared shirts) and the spectators are dressed for the symphony. I’d love to know more about about the knitwear makers who produced these athletic sweaters and the story behind that throat latch feature (something that I never see on modern examples).
I tried watching the 2016 Tour de France but lost interest after the first week. I miss the panache and personal style of cyclists from the past. Now, I can barely distinguish one game piece from the next (logos, lego shaped helmets and mirrored shades drown out the personalities of the individual riders. I much prefer the era of leather hairnets, wool jerseys, lace up cycling shoes, Campagnolo parts, and steel bike frames with pinstripe detailing around the lugs or chrome forks and seat stays. In lieu of a $29 streaming media packaging, I’m now browsing through vintage European matchstick covers from my favorite print ephemera archivist, Pillpat. Head over to her vintage matchbox and matchboxes set on flickr to pick the riders for your own personal peloton.
Browsing through photos of female war workers from WW2, I can’t help but lament the loss of the classic, wide legged, high waisted dungaree.
While there are limitless repro and throwback heritage offerings for men (Mister Freedom and Sugar Cane always deliver) it is nearly impossible to find contemporary trousers for women in this style. Dickies 1922, Carhartt, Levi’s and Filson have produced, on again, off again, trousers for women (with light nods to historic design details). Gamine, a new brand on the block, sells a lovey cinchback trouser, that nearly looks like something you would find in a WPA photograph. However, it is rare to see a major denim brand offering a model that dares to be as audacious in voluminous dimensions, and as high waisted, as those original, government issue trousers. Revisiting a favorite flickr set from from the Library of Congress, 1930-40s in color, to remind myself of what dungarees look like in native environs, as a default (and perfunctory) uniform.
Fun fact: Weinbrenner/Thorogood made boots for CC Filson in the 1990s. And when Archival started, we met with Thorogood to discuss a possible collaboration. That project never materialized, but here’s a variation on an oxford I wish we had released:
Andrea Cesari, sewing savant and pattern historian, unearthed info on another US footwear company lost to time: Trot Moc. Trot Mocs were made by the Ashby Crawford Company of Marlborough, Mass, whose ads pitch the shoes to men, women, and children in the pages of mainstream publications like Saturday Evening Post, Outside and Ladies Home Journal in the 1910s. Like all our fave heritage footwear examples, Trot Mocs were handsewn, goodyear welted, and made from “tough and long wearing” tanned leather.
Since visuals of Trot Mocs are limited to a few scarce catalogs and scratchy, microfilmed magazine reprints, here is a verbal description of Trot Mocs: “The toe is plain, without cap or stiffening, and since the shoe is made on Blucher lines, a perfect adjustment can be made by lacing. The soles and heels are fitted with steel grippers which are rivetted through so they cannot hurt the foot. The shoe is unlined.”
In the absence of Nike and New Balance, Ashby Crawford marketed Trot Mocs as everyday wear, perfect for sport, play, and vacation (in ads, the shoe is billed as the “national play shoe” and the “back to nature shoe”).
But here’s what I love most about Trot Mocs: each pair came with a cast metal stick pin:
Denim for women is tricky. After many years, I have narrowed my own brand make/model preferences down to Levi’s LVC 501 (1947), Rogue Territory Stanton, and Sugar Cane 1947. I prefer old school, mile wide leg openings, high rises, and huge cuffs. I’m a not-so-curvy, shortish woman, so I can get away with modifying men’s models to fit my body. That being said, many friends ask me what jeans I like and what to buy. Rather than sending them on an impossible journey of denim discovery (minimum five year timeline), I’m trying to short circuit the search process and drum up some readymade recommendations.
Criteria: denim that is well made, durable, washable, stylish, and includes historical design features. Pricepoint is a separate issue. Most friends are willing to pay under $200 for what they identify as premium denim. Women who are looking for workwear for use outdoors may wish to pay less (given that the pennies-per-wear model stategy doesn’t really work when you are replacing your jeans every six months or so).
My current denim workwear recommendation is Gamine. Gamine started out producing denim for gardeners. They have expanded their audience to “geologists, farmers, and weekend warriors.”
I don’t mindlessly say that the past is better when thinking about garb, print catalogs, and catalog copy. I keep a folder of evidence on my desktop and periodically pick out my fave examples. I used to save catalogs and scan them myself. Now, I just grab snaps from the pinterest/flickr/tumblr stew. Here are a few adds for Finck’s “Detroit-Special” overalls. You can read about the company on the Detroit Historical Society site. I haven’t found visual evidence, but according to the DHS, ‘[c]hanges to the factory work force during World War II necessitated marketing to women, and the company introduced the word “modest” in their advertisements – along with an endorsement from an unnamed Miss America.” If you have ever seen a Finck’s ad for women, let me know.
The visuals below speak for themselves but I will add that I love the confident use of white space space, the clinical anatomization of the product (showing its features and selling them at the same time), and the absolutely charming tag line: “wear’s like a pig’s nose.”