Recent Finds: Deadstock Laurence J Smith (Laurence Odie) 5 Ply Cashmere ‘Shetland’

Today was one of those glorious autumn days, crisp clear air and brilliant blue sky. Perfect day for suede jackets and corduroy jeans, so I decided to head to John Simons to fulfil my latest part in the transatlantic ivy exchange with Fred in LA. He’d ordered a bunch of stuff from JSA and I usually pick it up and ship to him in return for similar activity on the other side of the Atlantic.

Shetland Style knitted crew neck

The only problem with this recently has been the influx of too many really great items in the store. Today I walked in and got mugged. It was a Monty Python kind of mugging, with John and Paul in a Doug and Dinsdale style with me nodding and agreeing to the mugging. I say this only because despite the much anticepated new oxford shirts arriving, I had decided categorically to go in and out without buying a single item after the J Keydge splurge earlier this month.

The problem is when entering the shop and faced with John, Paul and Shirley emptying a carton just arrived from yonder Shetland Isles, in which can be found five (only five, no more EVER) heavy 5 ply cashmere sweaters hand framed (and knitted on the Isles in the style of the traditional Shetland much loved by Ivy enthusiasts), what resistance is there? The supplier had found five packets of these cashmere sweaters languishing in their stock room. Sweaters that more than ten years ago were £250 a piece from the wholesaler…

Having spent a great deal of time and effort in recent times (like a number of others online) to find a decent tubular knit Shetland wool sweater in proper chest sizes, I thought my luck was in when Oi Polloi got their Jamieson’s delivery last week. Except someone at OP listed the navy as alpha sizes and literally by the time they responded to my email asking if it was a mistake, they’d sold out of every colour!

The legend reads: Knitted in the Shetland Isles by Laurence J Smith

Fortuitously, it now seems. For otherwise how to justify the purchase of this bottle green cashmere beauty?

Marked a 42″, like other Shetlands it comes up a size smaller. John had already put one aside for Fred, but there was another, also in bottle green – my colour of choice too.

Trying it on with my vintage sand Levi’s cords, a deadstock Sero plaid flannel and cola desert boots, there was no contest. It passed the ‘looks like I came in the shop already wearing it’ test with flying colours. I think Mrs Weejun may have just found what to buy me for Christmas (she doesn’t know it yet though).

Laurence J Smith is the old name for the company that is now named Laurence Odie. Anyone who has tried finding traditional Shetlands in the last few years will know they are the preferred maker of J Press Shaggy Dogs as well as supplier of the amazing colour pallette of O’Connells, and The Andover Shop and Cable Car Clothiers, too – all legendary outfitters.

This is one special sweater, of a kind that once upon a time (before the entire Outer Mongolia became a cashmere battery farm) could be found easily in any number of old school English outfitters or the likes of Westaway and Westaway, but no more. In fact, these days I normally eschew cashmere as it’s really hard to find the good stuff. What was once for the wealthy is now for the likes of Primark and GAP. But not this beauty.

Shetland Style Cuffs and Waistband but in FIVE ply Scottish Cashmere!

Would that I got mugged this way more often! To paraphrase Doug and Dinsdale Piranha’s victim Stig O’Tracey said in the Python sketch, “I had transgressed the unwritten law”! That of walking into the shop whilst vintage stock was being unloaded and expecting to escape unscathed.

Mucho thanks to John and Paul – am honoured indeed…

Recent Finds: 1950s Deadstock Montgomery Ward Suede Bomber

Every now and again it’s possible to come across something extraordinary when searching for vintage American clothing. Suede jackets are something I’ve always loved but vintage suede can be very funky in the worst possible sense and the vintage aroma can take months to clear. Some items are better not cleaned as suede cleaning chemical can strip colour and leave the items faded. Hence the constant search for the holy grail – deadstock suede jackets. Some months back my broadband went down just as a deadstock 1940s Hercules suede bomber jacket (in original box no less!) was ending. It didn’t even sell for that much as it was not described very well and being sold by someone who wasn’t a regular seller of vintage Americana. Properly described it would almost certainly have gone to a Japanese deadstock store like Second Boom in Evisu.

But good things come to those who wait. In this case an international plan needed hatching – starting with Herb Lester, who found the listing in the first place and emailed me the link (with no small degree of sadness no doubt), but being too large for Mr L. Then the good services of ivy stylist and JSA platinum customer, Fred in LA, were needed as the seller wasn’t set up to take payments from buyers with non US addresses. You know how it is, once you find something like this you’re not going to wait on an email from a seller on a weekend when they could be canoeing up some river without wifi…

Although not strictly an Ivy item, more a mainstream American classic, the suede bomber is something I have coveted since I was a teenager watching Paul Newman and Steve McQueen in Somebody Up There Likes Me. In the mid 80s you could find pretty good quality ones around the retro stores of Les Halles or St Germain. In London almost impossible save for the caramel coloured Schott examples for £400 in the KIngs Rd (then a Kings Ransome too!). I remember a particularly nice loden green one I bought on the Left Bank. Many though were made of cheap pigskin split suede but that one was cowhide, a great jacket in its day.

In 1999 I had to travel to LA for work and I got Sherri, then owner of Golden Bear in San Francisco (and still all US made) to dig one out for me and she kindly offered to put a shawl collar on,( like the ones she remembered selling to John Simons and that I could never afford at the time), and ship it to my hotel in Century City. Unfortunately, she completely misguessed my size and that amazing jacket ended up with John Rushton. (John has incidentally recently asked me to find a new home for that particular jacket which I would guess is roughly a 44).

GB Leather - Made in USA - Is this Golden Bear for Japan like the SERO comeback?

Labels are an approximation of the original Golden Bear jackets

Then, last year,  I found one in Argentina, on a polo and saddle maker’s website called Arandu. After a lot of to and froing in my bad spanish, they finally sent me one in the post and in such a home made parcel that it completely escaped customs. The parcel and communication gave the impression of a tiny outfit, and the jacket was hand signed on the tag by the workshop maker.

When I went to Buenos Aires in May this year, I couldn’t equate that hand packed, hand written, parcel with the seriously high end store, complete with lifesize polo pony mannequins showing off their saddles. In Argentina these jackets with a shawl collar are worn by almost all men of a certain age and class, and usually in the rust colour of old American-style deer skin suede. The only downside is that they are a little stuck in the 1940s and so all of the jackets have shoulder pads in – but these have proven simple to remove as they’re only hand tacked in under the lining.

Inside the Arandu Saddlery, Recoleta, Buenos Aires

In the same upmarket area of Recoleta in BsAs where Aradu is based, I also came across Rossi & Caruso, a very high tone store that equates itself with Hermes – again with a saddle making history going back to the 19th century. Here the jackets were a little heavier and a little more 50s/60s in style, albeit with the requisite shawl collar.

Argentina is probably the only place left on the planet with a European Anglo Ivy tradition where the sterling has some value, these jackets, whilst expensive by local standards, were remarkably cheap compared to anything remotely comparable in London or Paris, especially from such an upmarket store. I ended up buying two, a deep rich brown and a deep forest green. You can’t be confronted with items you’ve loved for over 30 years and then not take advantage of them!

Tan Suede Bomber from Rossi & Caruso's website. Oversized, I went for Small for the best fit.

Rossi & Caruso Chocolate Suede Shawl Collar Bomber

Rossi & Caruso Shawl Collar Suede Bomber in Fir Green

Having now three of these jackets, I wasn’t really in the market for another, but when Herb sent me the link to this Montgomery Ward Tartan Suede bomber I couldn’t resist picking it up. Deadstock stuff fascinates me – especially when we’re talking about items that have been sought after since at least the 80s in Japan and elsewhere. The fact that this stuff still turns up in nearly 20 years into the internet is always incredible.

Paul Newman Signing Autographs on the set of Somebody Up There Likes Me

The tags on this jacket show that it’s made of the kind of chamois suede that was hugely popular in American from the 1940s onwards – both Scotch, with their still current Scotchguard technology, and Dupont, with their Quilon brand, made water and stain resistant coatings for suede jackets and many, like this example, were also washable! The tanners of this particular item, Kroy, marketed their suede as “Miracle suede by Kroy washable dry cleanable water and stain resistant–American Certified Institute of Laundering”. Such claims helped fine suede to move from being the domain of the rich to being an everyday catalog item – even boy’s bomber jackets could be found in suede!

Vintage McGregor with Dupont Quilon - enabling wool & suede combinations that were easy to clean

Montgomery Ward was the original mail order catalogue, set up in the 19th century to supply farmers and homesteaders with items from back East that were simply unavailable in the West. The original source of all today’s online stores that allow us to buy niche or foreign made products from anywhere in the world!

Desirable coats from the 1915 edition of the Montgomery Ward Catalog

Arandu Saddlery Rust Shawl Collar Suede Bomber

Arandu Suede Bomber in Cape Buck, very close feel to Deerskin

There is only one aspect of this deadstock jacket that I’m not so sure about – the size! Whilst I have experience of vintage bombers being very short in the body and sleeves in a 40 or 42 compared to any modern clothes (try finding a Catalina derby jacket longer than 24/25 inches!), I think even a 1950s size 46 may be pushing it for me. If that’s the case, when it arrives it may have to be rehomed. That will be sad, but at least I do have some great Argentinean jackets to be going on with. (Since starting to write this article I’ve also researched firms who will alter suede garments so that may be an option to take the chest in a little).

I will update when it arrives…

Montgomery Ward Tartan Suede Deadstock Bomber

Septis Select Store (for GB Leather)
Rossi & Caruso

The Return of SERO of New Haven? Kind of.

Imagine my surprise today when I came across a link to an image for a new Sero ‘shambray’ (sic) shirt on Google.

A bit more digging around and with the help of Google’s translation service it appears that someone has resurrected the Sero name for Japan. It’s probable that the brand being out of copyright there, someone has registered the name and the shirts are imported only to Japan.

A reasonable copy of the original label

A close up of the label reveals a fairly good facsimile of the 1970s-80s Sero label with a Made in Canada tag. I wonder if that’s the Hathaway factory?

Be interesting to see one first hand

I do like the way the Meets Ichie website not only states the height of their models but also their weight!

According the site this man weighs 79kg...

Well I guess with the success of GANT digging through their archives it was only a matter of time before someone brought SERO back.

The website is Meets Ichie

Thanks to reader and commenter Coltrane for the link to this nice Sero popover from this summer. The listing says resized for the Japanese market.

One of the popover colours available last summer...

Vintage GANT Chambray Popover

Just picked up this interesting 1970s GANT chambray popover from Zach at Newton Street Vintage. A slightly odd mix of 60s style S/S pullover shirt and chambray work shirt, but nevertheless one that looks like it works. 1970s GANT collars were usually great, and this one has the requisite third collar button and locker loop.

No makers label remaining but the RN number shows it’s a product of the Palm Beach Company, GANT’s 70s parent. I’m sure Gant Archives would have loved to get hold of this one with its beardy workwear undertones…

One to put away for summer 2012, but you gotta buy it when you see it with this stuff!

Newton Street Vintage can be found here and is highly recommended.

Update: Hollywood & The Ivy Look – Reel Art Press

Update: Last night I sent a spy to the book launch party at John Simons. Well, not really a spy, I was invited. Having had a quick look through the book at midnight, it really is pretty damn special. I’ll post a proper review of it on Sunday. Meanwhile, copies pre-ordered are due to be sent out next week according to Tony, one of the authors.

Yesterday when I was in John Simons store buying up all those Keydge slack jackets there was a well dressed ivyist with an iPad showing John and Paul Simons mock up layouts of the upcoming coffee table tome, Hollywood & The Ivy Look. It turned out to be Tony Nourmand co-author of the book along with Graham Marsh and J.P. Gaul.

Montgomery Clift Wearing a blue and white university stripe OCBD

I actually didn’t want to look at the spreads as I’m eagerly awaiting my own copy and much prefer that first flick through to be a surprise. The glimpses I did see were the quality you’d expect!

Tony also said they’d put a mention of in the resources section. Very kind of them and perhaps subtle pressure to keep up the posting more often!

You can pre-order it from the publisher Reel Art Press here and the guys have a blog here. I’d had mine on order from Amazon but they had to refund me as they book will not be available via Amazon!

One You Can Buy: J. Keydge Slack Jackets For JSA

There has been an incredible buzz online around John Simons’ latest delivery of J. Keydge slack jackets – one it seems that has translated into real sales. Keydge is an odd brand. They make a number of deconstructed jackets that appear to be aimed at 65 year old French lotharios with Rod Stewart hair and sleeves pushed up. But then they also make the Ivy slack jacket, which is simple, lightweight, deconstructed. In a word sublime.

It’s also one of those jackets that looks better on than off. No one who tries one on can fail to buy one. When Paul Simons told me they were getting in corduroy and herringbone versions for Autumn I kept a sharp eye out, knowing from previous experience that John Simons sells out of medium sizes in days. Within minutes of them landing last week, I’d ordered a navy cord one. Then I saw the photo above on Film Noir Buff of the herringbone jacket. I wished I hadn’t.

I emailed Paul over the weekend to put one aside for me if they even had any left. Luckily there was one left in 50 (they come up larger than the cord or cotton version). I went into the store today to pick them up but then John told me they had olive cord as well. Damn. So that was it – three jackets in one day. The thing is, the cut and sizing fit me like no other jacket I’ve had and you simply cannot find them anywhere. Keydge is the kind of company that seems to go serially out of business, must have their PR department run by a guy who can’t use a computer and feature a website that only seems to sell last season’s oddments. There’s always been a motto chez Weejun and that is, if you see it buy it, because in our line of The Look, you probably won’t see it again.

The shop was buzzing today as well. Nice to finally meet Guy in there, dressed like a young Jack Lemmon. He was selling a French Keydge cord jacket to a Frenchman!

I told John I thought the shop had really come into its own now, after nearly a year. When it first opened there weren’t so many items I felt I needed to buy. Now, I was afraid to look around – great chinos, Pro Keds high tops, vintage leather jackets, Pike Bros N-1 Navy jackets, some great suits and some Grenfell cord covert coats to die for. Then there were the Florsheim Yuma in chocolate suede. I wouldn’t have thought I’d like them as much as the pebble grain, but they look very cool – Italian ivy.

Great to see John’s enthusiasm after all these years and Paul Simons has gone from being the understudy to being a new master. JSA goes from strength to strength indeed!

Sorry for the poor iPhone photos – left the Leica at home today…

Florsheim Yuma in Dark Brown Suede

The 3/2 Roll Patch Pocket Ivy League Blazer

Not much to say about these really, except that you can be sure there’s plenty of Dacron in the mix being from Sears in 1964. And I’m not sure about the collarless example in the centre. Pendleton made a similar casual jacket in various plaids in the 60s.

Once upon a time FLIP in Long Acre sold these by the bushel load for £12.99, arranged on racks of grouped colour, the navy, camel, red, dark greens. Of course there were always some dodgy two button wide lapel darted nylon numbers, the chaff amongst the wheat, but if you looked hard enough you could find one in most sizes. I had a couple of them until they wore to pieces. All the right details, patch and flap pockets, swelled seams, hook vent, the 3/2 roll that moronic dry cleaner would try to iron out into a mod 3 button look, two buttons on the cuff and often a lining of shocking design or colour to contrast the traditional outer shell.

Worn in movies by George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, George Hamilton in Crime and Punishment USA and James Franciscus in Youngblood Hawke

These days it’s hard to find a good one that fits due them being mostly sourced online, but the modern equivalent may just be the J Keydge jacket as purveyed by John Simons Apparel. A post coming soon under ‘One You Can Buy’…

1966 Sears “Sporty Boots” Playboys

Showing their apres-ski roots, these Sears branded playboy chukkas with ‘Searofoam’ soles and ‘plush’ lining are almost certainly rebranded Bates Floaters. One can only imagine how hot feet must have got in these babies.

From page 252 of the 1966 Christmas Sears Catalog

Disclaimer: The boots featured in this post are from another time and era, long, long, ago. 1966 to be exact, so no, I don’t sell them, I don’t have them in your size, I will never get them, so please don’t ask – you will only be disappointed.

(You’d be amazed at the number of emails I get from people who think The Weejun is some kind of store that time forgot. I wish).

The Ivy Shearling Car Coat. Sawyer of Napa for LL Bean circa 1969.

The Shearling Coat.

Where do we begin with this?

The shearling or sheepskin coat has a checkered history on the Anglo side of the pond. A post war staple worn by the Chelsea set in their Austin Healeys with suede chukkas and a windowpane check viyella shirt (also worn by the girls – think Maggie Smith in the classic Seth Holt British noir Nowhere To Go – capri pants and desert boots in 1958) and a similar place in American style lore, adapted to the collegiate Ivy look. Then, later in Britain, a very much downmarket image of skinheads and market traders with a wheezing old Jaguar XJ6. Del Boy Trotter and Arthur Daley.

James Fox in The Servant (Factoid: Another John Rushton connection - Asst Editor on this Losey movie)

Meanwhile, year in and year out, northern Italians resorted to their shearling ‘nappa’ coats every autumn and winter along with the ubiquitous ‘tipo Clarks’ suede desert boots. Never out of fashion.

Ryan O'Neal aka Rodney Harrington & Ali McGraw in Love Story 1970

For a long time I’ve wanted a classic shearling but always held back due to the local connotations. Last winter I spent a good deal of time trawling eBay for the better English makes, Morlands, Antartex etc, but either the examples were well worn or else bid really high as they gradually crept back into hipster fashion.

The other limitation was the cut. It has to be the right one. IMHO, no turned fluffy cuffs or peeking shearling at the seams, no dark wool or double breasted front – instead a simple handwarmer pocket and three football buttons. This American take on the single breasted shearling harks back to the western days and you’ll find them listed as ‘barn coats’ or ‘marlboro man’ jackets by some eBay sellers. Think James Stewart carrying a Winchester 73 on a snowy Montana trail…

A few weeks back I was trawling US eBay on a Sunday afternoon as usual and came across an LL Bean shearling coat from the late 1960s. Apart from some ink marks it looked pretty good condition and was only $99.00 BIN (here the better brands can sell for a lot more), so I hit the button. Despite being caught by customs and their usual thieving (20% VAT on £99 and not $99!) the jacket that arrived exceeded expectations. The colour was better than the flash photos had shown and the jacket was in fine condition. A few minutes with the Meltonian Suede Eraser and the small ink marks on the sleeve were reduced by 90%.

I wonder where the London store was? Anyone know?

I know from the suede field coat I got last year that LL Bean didn’t make their own leathers and mostly they were made by Golden Bear (Slater and Sons of California). However, this jacket had a different RN number which showed the maker as Sawyer of Napa. This made me think – the Italians are obsessed by shoes and clothing in their beloved ‘nappa’ leather but I know from experience that many of these Italian terms are simply misspelled appropriations (‘nubuk’ being another).

Sure enough, a Wikipedia search finds that Sawyers patented the napa process in the early 20th Century. So this was a jacket with some pedigree. A further search showed the models below for sale on AAAT a while back. Beautiful jackets. The only difference with the Bean model being leather buttons instead of horn and no rear vent. I’d have liked a vent but it’s no big deal.

Sunbeam Alpine, snow, and sheepskin. What else?

Now, most of these Sawyer of Napa jackets are being sold on US Ebay for big money – $200-300. People now recognise that the quality of these coats, if looked after, is far in excess of anything that you can buy today even if you have several thousand dollars to spend. In fact Mrs Weejun, after the inevitable Del Boy wisecracks, couldn’t believe that my example cost a mere £65.00 for what is certain to be a very warm jacket this winter.

Worn with cord jeans or white levis on a sunny winter day, a ribbed roll neck or Sero check flannel BD under a Shetland crew and topped off with a Japanese cord buckled ivy driving cap. And, of course, Clarks Desert Boots or snuff playboy chukkas. (Funny to think that the Morlands sheepskins and the Clarks desert boots were made within a few miles of each other, Street and Glastonbury, and that that look came together and travelled the world).

Here are some more images of the look:

Advice – get one whilst you still can and pick up a bargain.

A feature on the history of Sawyer of Napa can be found here

Levis Stretch Jeans. Unnatural Fibres in 1963

Here’s something to ponder. Most of us who buy ‘the look’ these days will insist on natural fibres, cotton oxford, cotton corduroy, chinos, real suede, and so on. But back in the days we hark to, technology heralded a brave new world of mixed and distinctly unnatural fibres. Many of these products were developments from the oil and petroleum industries anxious to find more outlets for their by-products, some the result of NASA’s need for space age fabric and some, well, just because they could exist. As a six year old I remember once owning a pair of chunky monk shoes that were made of some kind of leather substitute. The salesman insisted to my mother that this was the answer to those school scuffed un-polishable leather shoes. After about two weeks the non-breathing plastic leather had my feet smelling like a tramp’s armpit.

Fake leather went the way of the dinosaur, thank God, but mixed fabrics are very much with us in 2011. I just bought a pair of Levis cord jeans (always harder to find than they should be) which for this year are 28% polyester corduroy. This is no space age hard wearing alternative to 100% cotton, but a reaction to an unbelievable rise in the price of raw cotton itself. I read earlier this year that a US denim manufacturer had laid off its staff for a whole year because the entire 2011 cotton bale stock they had forward purchased when the market was lower was worth more as bales than it was as denim! The company sold the bales on the open market rather than waste money turning it into fabric worth less. Uniqlo seem to have introduced a percentage of elastic fabric into almost everything this year. That 3-5% of man made fibre saves them millions of dollars on the price of cotton.

But even the so called traditional brands like Levis, that since the 501 craze went mass market circa 1983 (or 1986 if you were Robert Elms) have been seen as endlessly exploiting their ‘heritage’ by issuing bogus vintage models for the euro market, haven’t always been so trad. I was amazed to see this advert from 1963 showing the addition of Dupont Nylon to the denim.

On another note, it’s interesting that when you see old photos of people wearing Levis in the 60s they really were slim fit on the whole. I’ve long had a suspicion that the reissue models are a bit tinkered with. The only model I’ve managed to find that fit like those in the photos were the EU issued 1947 model non selvedge from around 2008. They were very slim and undersized. I recently got a pair of the 2011 selvedge 1947 (not LVC, the PWR model) in the exact same size but the legs are wide and baggy, probably more correct for a supposed 40s model.