The Musgrave Manifesto
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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.
The launch issue of For Him magazine
Thursday, April 11th, 2013
It was around Eastertime in 1985 that the first edition of For Him magazine appeared, distributed solely on a complimentary basis through menswear shops. It was the first of the modern crop of so-called men’s style magazines. I was the launch editor. I have scanned here all of its 32 pages and covers.
To clear up a popular misconception, For Him was never a trade magazine. As these pages show, it was always aimed at the consumer. It was the brainchild of Chris Astridge, who was the owner and publisher. We also produced a menswear trade magazine called MAB News. Chris’ view was that the days of fashion trade mags were numbered as the number of independent fashion shops was declining. Advertisers wanted to reach the end-consumers and that’s what For Him was designed to do. Its rather clunky name is an English translation of Per Lui, an Italian fashion title of the period.
The idea was to produce a style guide, a celebration of good clothes and good dressing, with the American title Esquire of the 1960s our most obvious inspiration. To circumvent the reluctance of national newspaper chains to stock this new magazine, and to get round a possible reluctance of British men to pay for a fashion publication, Chris hit on the idea of distributing the mag for free (note there is no cover price) only through independent menswear shops. This distribution served For Him well for several years and even when a cover price was added and it was sold via W H Smith and the rest, menswear shops still stocked For Him.
We published For Him every six months; I was the editor of the first three editions, from Spring Summer 85 to Spring Summer 86, before leaving to work in the Netherlands for International Textiles magazine..
I returned to be the editor for most of 1990, by which time the magazine was well established and had been joined by Arena and GQ, and was soon to have Esquire as a competitor also. Chris eventually sold For Him Magazine to Emap in 1994 and it was quickly converted in to an amazingly successful “lads’ mag”, which, as these pages show, was quite different to our original concept.
Still on camera in Scotland
Saturday, April 6th, 2013
Proof that I bring sunshine into people’s lives wherever I go was evidenced on Friday when Glasgow was bathed in spring sunlight to coincide with my visit. Following on from my previous blog for Thursday,the first stop on our filming schedule for Textiles Scotland was the screening room within the rather smart Blythswood Square Hotel.
Here each of the 40 comfy cinema seats is covered with a different Harris Tweed – and very impressive is the effect. The hotel uses Harris Tweed for most of its furniture, a classy reminder of the cloth’s suitability for interiors as well as apparel. In the screening room. we filmed pieces-to-camera on Scottish luxury knitwear (the best kind) and on Harris Tweed itself, which is the only textile in the world that is defined and protected by an Act of Parliament.
After an adventure negotiating the mystery that is Glasgow’s one-way street system, the happy band from Speakeasy Productions and I descended on a brilliant incubator unit for fashion start-ups called Fashion Foundry. After an adventure negotiating the mystery of the signage in the huge building it is in (it’s jam-packed with creative studios and workshops), we finally found our lovely collaborators:
Laura Ironside, who works in beautiful Scottish leather and suede to make corsetry-inspired pieces, as seen in the background here:
Pea Cooper, who does a brilliant job in creating stunning headwear – including ones in Harris Tweed!;
and Jennifer Kent, whose impressive men’s knitwear collection is presented under the Edition Scotland label.
I finished off my filming by disrupting the Friday afternoon of Mairi McDonald, another Fashion Foundry member. Mairi has worked as a designer for a number of luxury brands and large retailers but now runs her own business that uses Scottish lace and leather to create striking stylish womenswear with a rock ‘n’ roll inspiration. She also finds time to write a fashion column for The Herald. Clever lass! As the photos show, we had an amusing time.
If all goes to plan, the Textiles Scotland video should be available for viewing in early May. I’ll keep you informed.
On camera in Scotland
Friday, April 5th, 2013
Bright sunshine greeted my visit to Edinburgh to start two days of filming a video for Textiles Scotland, the promotional body for the 600 companies in the fashion and textiles sector north of the body. After filming at Harvey Nichols in the morning, the crew and I descended on the charming and talented Judy R Clark, who is a keen exponent of mixing Harris Tweed and Scottish lace from Ayrshire-based MYB.
Other companies to be featured in the film, which will be posted on the Textiles Scotland site are cashmere spinner Todd and Duncan, Lochcarron Tweed, leather producer Andrew Muirhead and Son, technical textiles firm Scott & Fyfe and tartan specialist MacNaughton Holdings. It’s a fascinating selection of some of the fine work being created in Scotland. I’ll post details of the video as soon as I have them.
The film is being produced by Speakeasy Productions and I am having a great time working with Robert Anderson, Cassi Thompson, David Miller and Jean Devlin. I was appropriately attired in my jacket and waistcoat from Kathryn Sargent in Scottish “Gamekeeper” tweed by Robert Noble and cashmere tie from Drake’s.
My blue heaven
Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
Chatting to denim dynamo Tim Browne not long ago, I was bemoaning the fact that it seems impossible to find a good chambray shirt these days. In its classic construction, this plain-weave mid- or light-weight cotton fabric has an appealing hue thanks to the blend of a blue warp (the threads running north-to-south in the cloth) and a white weft (the horizontal threads). Tim promised me he had one in the pipeline for his new brand Blue Collar Worker.
Good as his word, ex-Levi’s designer Tim delivered this fine item to me recently. Thanks, Tim! It’s got the sort of good generous cut I like, just enough practical workwear details and – praise be – the logo is printed discreetly out of sight on the long front tail. I am wearing it here with my dark-wash Carhartt wide-leg jeans and an Armadillo Merino undershirt.
I am going to get a lot of wear out of this well-constructed Blue Collar Worker shirt, which will find plenty of indigo-dyed company in the Musgrave wardrobe.
This is not only double denim – it’s double G-Star Raw Essentials denim – two really excellent pieces from the Dutch masters of jeanswear. The shirt fabric is particularly interesting, displaying lots of horizontal flecks. The jeans wash results in a particularly intense blue.
I like the shade contrast here between the slim-fit Wrangler shirt and the vivid blue of the Candiani jeans that I had made for me at Bread&Butter last summer. (Candiani is an Italian denim mill that was creating customised jeans at the Berlin fair, as explained towards the end of this blog).
Currently, my oldest denim shirt is this loyal favourite from Wrangler, which has become so washed out over maybe a dozen or more years that it sometimes needs the lift from the red 5-pocket jeans from Boggi. The bandanna is from the Swedish brand, Denim Demon Jeans.
And why not triple denim? In this instance, my new Blue Collar Worker shirt, Carhartt jeans, and my old Blood & Glitter jacket. Even the bandanna has indigo roots – it’s from The Rising Sun Mfg Co in LA. The herringbone-patterned silk cap is from Bates in Jermyn Street.
My mild obsession with denim has a long history. This 1980s favourite was from Replay – today a good black denim shirt is hard to find. I wish I still had this one. (The Wayfarers date back to when Ray-Ban didn’t insist on having that bloody annoying and unnecessary logo on the arms!)
This photo was taken at Annandale, Minnesota on 4th July 1976, so I was in a Levi’s double denim outfit to celebrate the USA’s 200th birthday. The shirt once had long sleeves, so it was quite ancient by this time.
This pic reminds me of Hardy Amies’ pungent assessment of denim jeans in his 1964 work, The ABC of Men’s Fashion: “Jeans are more attractive when well worn, being made in a cloth of a colour and texture which is improved by frequent rough washing, as are most peasant clothes.”
Gentlemen of Style to dowload
Monday, April 1st, 2013
Less than a week after I called for a revival of the use of illustration, my inbox receives a welcome note from Sven Raphael Schneider, who runs the rather splendid Gentleman’s Gazette website in the US.
Raphael, as friends like me call him, has an enviable collection of vintage men’s style magazines and he has produced an eBook of some fine American illustrations from the 1930s. Generously, it is available for download for subscribers to his newsletter – so sign up here. What a nice start to the fourth month of the year. Thanks, Raphael.
In my Easter bonnet…
Sunday, March 31st, 2013
At Easter, I always think of Judy Garland and her appreciation of a man in a hat:
Never saw you look quite so pretty before
Never saw you dress quite so handsome – what’s more
I could hardly wait to keep our date
This lovely Easter morning
And my heart beat fast as I came through the door
In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it
You’ll be the grandest fella in the Easter parade.
I’ll be all in clover, and when they look us over
We’ll be the proudest couple in the Easter parade.
On the avenue, Fifth Avenue,
The photographers will snap us
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure.
Oh, I could write a sonnet, about your Easter bonnet
And of the guy I’m taking to the Easter Parade.
I haven’t been on an Easter Parade, but it seems a good moment to take a walk down my headwear memory lane.
Here are some holiday snaps from the early 60s. I was born in 1955, so take a guess at the dates yourself.
By 1982 I was living in London, working on Drapers Record and embracing retro fashion, which included a zoot suit, a beret, a DB suit and a trilby.
I like the practicality of headgear, as seen here in the American Mid-West in 1977, in Iceland in 2006 and in Yorkshire in 2010.
Travels are a good excuseto unleash an unexpected head covering, such as this astrakhan cap in Russia in 1986, a hanky above a Costa Rican volcano in 1992 and a spotted hanky in Portugal in 2006.
Today I am not a great fan of inexpensive peaked caps, but in the past I have worn one in Thailand (1990), Dominican Republic (1988) and London (1987) and (1992).
My straw hats date back to the early 1980s. If we ever have any good weather again , I will dig out the neat Independent Italia hat that Lapo Elkann gave me in from 2009 and the blue trilby by Ede & Ravenscroft from 2012.
You can’t go wrong with a flat cap: mine include one a grey linen one from Barneys New York, and various styles from Bates the hatter in Jermyn Street.
I wore this trilby in the late ’70s. It’s time to get a new one.
I have a soft spot for my deerstalker.
Don’t worry – I only wear this decorated Turkish cap at home!
This is my latest acquisition – a tweed trilby from Failsworth.
As the old ad slogan says, if you want to get a head, get a hat.
Moto’s marvellous miniatures
Friday, March 29th, 2013
One of the bonuses of my job is that I meet interesting people. One such is a bespoke tailor, Yoshinori Yamamoto, who is universally known in the trade as Moto.
Born on 24 December 1939. Moto was the second son of a tailor in Osaka, Japan. From the age of five, he took up the needle in his father’s workshop. Between 1959 and 1963, he followed the correspondence course for the famous Tailor & Cutter Academy in Gerrard Street, Soho, London, the world’s pre-eminent centre of bespoke tailoring training.
By 1965 Moto was in London studying at the T&C Academy, from where he picked up this handsome diploma and started on a career in tailoring. Around the same time, he also took up wrestling and ended up as the British Southern Area Flyweight Champion in 1966. As he recalls: “I was very poor at that time, not eating well, so I surprised myself.”
Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, despite then having limited English, Moto found work with, among others, Kilgour, French & Stanbury (1967-68) and Hawes & Curtis (1968-70), both in Dover Street. He then became a cutter with Trafalgar Clothing (1970-72), which ran 25 menswear shops in name of G S Roseman, Leslie Andrews and Dombey & Son in the City. Between 1972 and 1974, he worked with the legendary Douglas Hayward, before joining Hayward’s friend Sandra Weiberg in her new women’s shop, Ladies Habits.
Following Mrs Weiberg’s death in 1978, Moto worked for himself and then returned to Hayward between 1983 and 2001. During the early part of this period, he was mentioned in The Official Sloane Rangers Handbook as a recommended tailor. Moto worked with my pal Charlie Allen in Islington until 2004, when he supposedly retired.
More than 20 years ago, Moto began making miniature jackets to show his cutting and tailoring skills. He is now looking to sell a small number of these amazing little creations. The precision and neatness is very impressive as the jackets are only about 12 inches high.
Some of the examples are housed in display cases that were hand-made by Moto, who also fashioned the tiny mannequin forms, the stands made with cotton reels and the thimble “head”. He likes to include a small photo of himself on most of his creations.
I am particularly impressed by the trompe l’oeil shop windows he has created showing interiors of imaginary tailors’ shops.
Since the mid-1970s, Moto has been painting and has shown himself to be a skilled copyist. This is his version of The Tailor (Il Tagliapanni), from about 1570, by Giovanni Battista Moroni, which hangs in the National Gallery. A version of this portrait was the emblem of The Tailor & Cutter Academy.
Moto has also produced a series of mixed media self-portraits showing himself at work. This one is decidedly three-dimensional and even includes in it a tiny electric light bulb.
This one uses lots of brass buttons.
This one encapsulates the solitary existence of the bespoke tailor.
If you are interested in buying his miniature models or the artworks, contact Moto directly on firstname.lastname@example.org. We are unlikely to see his like again.
The Sartorialist loves MENSWEAR
Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
My Wednesday started well with a beautiful sunrise and then got even better when my daughter Florence pointed out that The Sartorialist had featured Tom Phillips’ book of vintage menswear postcards (which includes my foreword) with the message: “Fashion and vintage photographs! What more could I ask for in a book?”
Bodleian Library Publishing put an image from the book on its catalogue last season.
I can recommend all five other titles in the series – Fantasy Travel, Readers, Women & Hats, Bicycles and, my poignant favourite, Weddings. “Ordinary” people are every bit as fascinating as so-called celebrities.
Let’s bring back illustration
Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
Illustration is an overlooked, if not forgotten, art form these days. An obsession with photography – digitally enhanced more often than not – dominates the media, but I would like to see some creative company revive the classic techniques of the past. They could do worse than look to these examples for inspiration – all taken from a catalogue of a British company called Thexton & Wright.
I am guessing that these date from before World War II. Any other suggestions gratefully received. Google brings up Thexton & Wright mentioned in an ad in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1950 alongside such fine tailoring names as Simon Ackerman, Maenson, Sumrie and Hector Powe. It also reveals that a company with the name of Thexton & Wright is listed as an investment company in Thirsk, which leads me to guess that the tailoring firm may have been part of the Austin Reed group, which was based in the north Yorkshire town. Anyone know better?
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