The Musgrave Manifesto
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Spring ideas from Sir magazine
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Continuing my campaign to revive the art of illustration, I have revisited my collection of Sir magazines from the 1950s. This quarterly trend magazine was a brother publication to International Textiles and it used illustration extensively alongside photography. I have always liked the strong simplicity of its covers. Here they are from 1954,
and 1959. These last two are by the famous illustrator René Gruau, who worked for International Textiles from 1948 to 1984.
RIP George Jones, Pure Country Singer
Friday, April 26th, 2013
I was saddened today to hear of the death of country music legend George Jones at the age of 81. As far as I am concerned, he was a white soul singer, delivering superbly crafted lyrics with immense feeling and sincerity. If you are not familiar with his singing, I can strongly recommend A Girl I Used To Know, She Thinks I Still Care, He Stopped Loving Her Today and, possibly my favourite of his hundreds of recordings, A Good Year For The Roses.
George always looked the part too because he knew how stars had to behave. I especially like his early ’60s style, as seen in these images from 1962 taken by amateur photographer Leon Kagarise and collected in a brilliant book called Pure Country
And to finish, a duet with Tammy Wynette, who during 1969-75 was the third of George Jones’ four wives. They toured occasionally after they divorced and I saw them at the Hammersmith Odeon about 25 years ago with an audience of the strangest British rednecks. George Jones was notorious for drink and drug abuse and missed so many concerts that he was known as No-Show Jones. Tammy opened the London concert and after a few songs, some impatient and worried Jones fan shouted out: “Where’s George?, to which Tammy drily retorted “Well, I don’t know, honey, and I don’t think he does either.” The great man appeared on stage shortly after and gave a memorable performance, ending with a few duets with the former Mrs Jones, who died in 1998.
The Filson shop at 9 Newburgh Street
Thursday, April 25th, 2013
It’s 116 years or so since C C Filson opened his business in Seattle, Washington, USA to serve the adventurers of the Klondike Gold Rush. The rugged quality of Filson, the American outdoor company, has appealed to me for years, when all I knew about it was what I learned from ads in American GQ and Esquire.
Happily, a Filson store has been opened at 9 Newburgh Street, which runs parallel to Carnaby Street on the western edge of Soho, London. It’s all very tempting as it is and there is yet more clothing coming down the pipe. Worth a visit!
Happy 43rd birthday, Sex Machine
Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Reading the sleeve notes of a James Brown 12″ single this week, I noticed that April 25 is the 43rd anniversary of the recording of his seminal Sex Machine, surely the greatest funk dance track ever laid down. Enjoy a 1971 live version of it here and marvel at the tightness of the mighty JBs – and their wonderful stage costumes.
These sleeve notes by Cliff White from the 1982 re-release 12″ single gives the full complement of the band, probably the best that Soul Brother Number 1 ever assembled.
In spring 1983 I met the great man after seeing him in concert in a small club in Brooklyn. I got backstage by telling the security man, totally inaccurately, that I wrote for the NME. James Brown was small, very fit looking, softly spoken and infused with Southern courtesy. He called his long-serving valet Danny Rae “Mr Rae”, while he in turn was always called “Mr Brown”. Here they are backstage at The Apollo Harlem in 1964. I’d love to know what colour that incredible suit was.
The poster from the 1983 gig at the Brooklyn Zoo club is framed on my wall.
Born into poverty in Georgia on 3 May 1933, from his young adulthood James Brown began a lifelong preoccupation with being immaculately dressed. Here he is looking majestic on the set of Ready Steady Go in 1966, photographed by Dezo Hoffman.
Who else but The Hardest Working Man In Show Business would wear a three-piece tweed suit and high-fastening roll neck top to perform a high-energy set in a hot TV studio?
James Brown died on Christmas Day 2006, but thanks to his amazing legacy he still stays on the scene, like a sex machine.
Lecturing at Kingston
Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
I was delighted to meet a fine bunch of fashion students at the University of Kingston this week.
They listened (apparently attentively) to my lecture on the history of men’s tailoring and then had some relevant and intelligent questions to ask at the end.
Thanks to Judith Watt, my colleague from way back in the For Him days, for suggesting I did the lecture. And thanks to Elinor Renfrew, academic director of fashion at Kingston, for the formal invitation. I enjoyed it.
At the Pattenmakers’ Footwear Dinner
Monday, April 22nd, 2013
There are worse ways to spend a Friday evening than enjoying good company and good fare at The Vintners’ Hall in the City of London.
The occasion was the 13th Annual Footwear Dinner organised by The Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers, my Livery Company. Among the chums spotted there were:
James Ducker of bespoke shoemakers Carré Ducker, who I’d seen only the night before;
Ken Bartle, late of Jones Bootmaker and much before that, with his son Paul (who, perhaps wisely, is not in the footwear trade);
and women’s bespoke shoemaker Caroline Groves with her daughter Rosie and Jim McCormack, legendary shoemaker of Mayfair;
and shoemaker Nicholaos Moustakas and Isabel de la Roche, a footwear designer with Kurt Geiger.
Our after-dinner speaker was Rory Mackenzie, a British Army veteran who lost a leg on active service in Iraq. Rory is a Freeman of the Pattenmakers, and a recipient of special footwear made by Bill Bird, another Pattenmaker who creates footwear for badly injured serviceman as part of the Company’s charitable work..
Bill Bird is here on the right with me and Past Master Richard Paice, who was instrumental in having me join the Company. Thanks, Richard!
The Vintners’ Hall, at 68 Upper Thames Street, EC4, was built between 1667 and 1676 after its predecessor was lost in the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was heavily damaged during The Blitz, but this beautiful oak-panelled room has survived. It’s a great privilege to see places like this.
Wear Winkers this summer
Friday, April 19th, 2013
The partnership of Deborah Carré and James Ducker has produced some very splendid bespoke footwear in recent times. They are worthy members of the guild of The New Craftsmen.
Luckily for those of us who can’t afford bespoke footwear, these disciples of St Crispin have unveiled the latest versions of their rather nice ready-made shoes aimed at vacation-time strolling. Their new slip-ons – fringed Irish linen uppers printed with a crayfish design created by London-based Thornback & Peel – happily straddle the frontier between formal and casual shoes. I like ‘em.
We gathered to examine the crustacean-decorated loafers at the inviting premises of Thornback & Peel at 7 Rugby Street, just off Lamb’s Conduit Street on the outer reaches of Bloomsbury, London.
Here I am with Deborah and James and a few examples of this summer’s Crays Collection, which are available in pale blue, pale brown and light green options. Made in Norwich, England, with a leather sole and lined with soft kid, these nifty trotter-covers retail at £150.
And moving on from shoes, if you in the market for some lovely prints, point your gaze toward Thornback & Peel, who clearly know what they are doing.
Thanks to James Wilkinson who snapping Deborah, James and I. see James’ more serious photography at ffstudios.co.uk
Begg & Co in The Rake
Thursday, April 18th, 2013
The 26th edition of that handsome menswear publication, The Rake, has arrived from Singapore. It contains my feature on Alex Begg, the fine Scottish manufacturer of scarves, stoles, wraps and more besides, which has re-launched its own brand as Begg & Co. The goodies will be in the shops this autumn and having sampled a few, I can attest to their considerable desirability.
My friends in Ayr tell me that new machinery will soon by added to the Begg mill, so another trip to the west coast of Scotland may be in order. A visit to the Begg factory shop will also be involved with the usual damaging effects to my wallet. I can resist everything but the temptation of gorgeous Made-in-the-UK products.
Holding on to my Holdall & Co folio
Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
I am very much enjoying using the Holdall & Co folio. My brown-themed outfit here comprises Christy’s trilby, Johnston’s cashmere rollneck, ancient Aquascutum coat, Kathryn Sargent trousers in Fox Flannel cloth and suede shoes from Doc C Custom Clothier in Philadelphia.
140 riveting years of Levi’s history
Sunday, April 14th, 2013
In 1873, Levi Strauss and his business partner Jacob Davis patented their copper-riveted waist overalls, as jeans were originally called. The 140th anniversary has prompted me to celebrate the jeans originators with some images taken from the 1992 book Cult: A visual history of jeanswear American originals by William Gilchrist and Roberto Manzotti. I wrote the supporting text in the book, as described here.
Levi Strauss, a German immigrant, moved from New York City to Sanfrancisco in 1853. He was 24. He began to produce for the Gold Rush miners in California what he called Waist High Overalls or Pantaloons. Levi Strauss & Co did not call its trousers “jeans” until the 1960s.
Originally the overalls were made from a hard-wearing fabric called duck cloth and from sail cloth. It started using what we’d now call denim in 1860. It bought the cloth from the Amoskeag Manufacturing Co in Manchester, New Hampshire, which was reportedly the world’s largest producer of cotton fabric.
Jacob Davis, a tailor and leather worker on Carson City, Nevada, proposed a collaboration to Levi Strauss. Davis had devised a process to use metal rivets to reinforce the stress points of overalls to make the garments more durable. The patent for this was issued on May 20 1873. The year also saw the introduction of the Double Arcuate stitch, originally in orange thread, on the single back pocket of Levi Strauss’ pants. One unconfirmed theory is that the device was meant to represent a flying Rocky Mountain eagle.
Until 1896, the pants carried only leather labels, but later pressed card was also used. About 140 years ago, Levi’s started using the XX reference indicating that it was using 10oz cloth, which was regarded as Double Extra Heavy. The image of two horses failing to pull apart a pair of Levi’s pants dates back to a publicity stunt in 1886.
Although we regard modern jeans as a “5-pocket Western” style, the fifth pocket – a second one on the back – was not added until 1905. The fourth pocket – the watch pocket – appeared in 1890.
What we now recognise as Levi’s 501s started life in the late 19th century as its Number One Overalls, which had a martingale fastening strap on the back waist. By 1922 belt loops were added to the existing buttons for braces. From 1922 the 501XX style used only 9oz denim from Cone Mills, based in Greensboro, North Carolina. The company still supplies Levi’s with certain denims today.
The famous Red Tab appeared in 1936! Originally all the letters were capitals – Levi’s collectors seek out the Big E tab.
Just as Levi’s first trousers were called overalls, so its first tops were called blouses. This 506XX model was introduced in 1905; it was re-classified as Number One in 1917. The term jacket was not used by Levi’s until around 1938.
This more familiar Levi’s jacket, the 557XX, also known as the Trucker Jacket, was released in 1962 with the celebrated pointed pocket flaps. In the late 1960s the jacket was made longer and side pockets were added.
With a nod to my blog about denim shirts a few days ago, I will finish with Levi’s marvellous “Sawtooth” Western shirt. I always thought the name referred to the pointed pocket flaps, but Cult says it comes from the jagged stitching on the yokes and pockets. I won’t argue with Cult.
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- The Place London Men’s
- Croots England. Made in Yorkshire. Seen at Pitti Uomo 91
- Christopher Raeburn for Save The Duck at Pitti Uomo 91
- Z Zegna at Pitti Uomo 91
- Johnstons of Elgin at Pitti Uomo 91
- PS by Paul Smith at Pitti Uomo 91
- Pitti Uomo hits 91 not out