Ivy Humour

Gant Yale Eats Itself.

Every season for the past few years the Gant Yale brand has produced the odd nice shirt in a good fabric and with the lamentable logo on the locker loop at least self coloured or obscure.

Today I popped into the Regent St store to see in person what some of the fabrics are like in this season’s range.

I’d seen on the US site that they’d introduced something called the “fitted” fit. Whatever that means. Well it means that Gant UK have stopped selling the regular fit Yale shirts and replaced the entire range with its bastard offspring. These shirts feature a locker loop but no box pleat. Two little knife pleats instead.

We all know that knife pleats were the precursors to the box pleat on the OCBD but that was decades before the Yale Co-op shirts the sub brand is supposed to be emulating. So the neck tags still read ‘Archive’ but it’s yet another iteration of made up history by a brand that should know better.

The Catalina Varsity Jacket

Catalina Varsity vs Derby of San Francisco (vs a Newcomer)

ABSENCE OF MALICE, Paul Newman, 1981, newspaper

In the past I’ve written about both the Catalina La Paz and the Derby of San Francisco bomber jackets. This time I’m focusing on the Catalina Varsity, a jacket closer in style and substance to the Derby version, along with a new copy from Oi Polloi.

My first encounter with this style of jacket came from my secondary school PE lost and found box. In the late 70s I I would regularly revisit the box where there were dozens of discarded sportswear items. Some of the stuff had probably been there for years. One day I discovered what I now know to be a Catalina knock off  – one of probably hundreds of copies* of the ‘rain cape shoulder’ windcheater. A light tan colour with no lining but with tan and navy striped elastic. I wore it until it fell apart and nobody ever claimed the thing.

*Rumour has it that the Ivy Shop in Richmond sold their own copies back in the day.

What are the differences?

The Catalina La Paz was a later lightweight version with a swing ‘action’ back that included nylon mesh vents to stop the wearer from overheating. It also had Baracuta style reverse pocket flaps, albeit without buttons. The La Paz also features the ‘rain cape shoulder’ the overall feature that makes these jackets instantly recognisable and much copied.

The Derby of San Francisco

The Derby of San Francisco version shares the rain cape shoulder but adds a beefiness by having the famous gold paisley lining in padded form. This gives a certain chunkiness to the wearer and the feeling of bulk that was no doubt part of its wider appeal to the disaffected youth.  Most versions featured a straight slash pockets with zipper fastening.

The reborn Derby can be found here

The Catalina Varsity

The Catalina Varsity version also features the padded lining and extra bulk, the lining this time with the wonderful Catalina sunbird logo. This model also mostly had slash zipper pockets rather than Baracuta styled reverse flaps.

You probably know by now the long and tortured story of the return of the Derby of San Francisco brand. It’s a shame that the reissues have remained so localised and really aimed at West Coast greaser/tattoo culture. In a similar way to the adoption of playboys by funky dudes in NY in the 1970s, the Derby/Catalina style jackets had their fans amongst varied  fashion tribes – often without seeming to come into contact one with another. Of course, we are primarily concerned with the ubiquitous wearing of these jackets in the 1960s to 1980s within the larger lvy Look sphere.

Which came first? That’s something I’d be interested to learn. Despite the propaganda from the Derby of San Francisco camp, my gut feeling is that the Catalina Varsity was the first version of this style. I suggest that because the Catalina brand can be found way back into the early 1930s as a maker of swim and beach wear, whereas I’ve not seen anything Derby branded earlier than mid 1960s. Both versions were of course originally Made in the USA and both companies continued the models long after their offshore move to places like Korea and Taiwan.

Cottonopolis from Oi Polloi

There’s also a new kid on the block on this side of the Atlantic – the Cottonopolis Catalina (sic) from the Oi Polloi house brand. As readers of this blog the powers at Oi Polloi may have been reinspired to produce a copy of the inconic rain cape shouldered bomber. Who knows? (Witness their description of the Paraboot history being somewhat close to what I wrote in this post)

One of the problems with the vintage Catalinas and the modern Derby versions are finding a fit that looks like the 1960s wearer would have sported. Most of the Catalina versions are incredibly short for modern man, at an average of 24 inches back length on a size 40! The Derby jackets were a tad longer in similar sizes but still relatively short and wide, whereas the modern ones seem to fit like 1990s hip hop wear – in XXXXL.

So how does the Oi Polloi version shape up?

Well it’s really good in most ways and somewhat disappointing in some others. The jacket is all cotton which is nice as it will get that cotton patina when it ages.

The dark navy (which I bought as soon as I saw their email newsletter) has a really nice classic plaid lining. Not padded, but enough for the British spring chill. The pockets are the reverse flap types with added buttons and the overall shape, fabric and quality is really well done. Until we get to the zip.

Now, no one is expecting deadstock Talon zippers or anything but the zipper on these jackets is truly appalling quality. It’s a two way zipper of a type that you would reject on a £5 anorak from your local version of Mr Buyrite.

From the off the jacket is near impossible to close without some real dexterity to manipulate the zipper parts and it looks and feels like its made from the same brittle alloy as 1970s die cast Matchbox cars. For those readers who believe that Made in England is somehow a magic panacea to all the alleged evils of offshore making… That someone put this zipper on such an otherwise well made jacket is just…well.

And then there’s the sizing. Oi Polloi are generally very good when it comes to giving correct measurements on garments so they give a heads up that the sizes are large, but I’m 6’2″ and the Small (the smallest size they sell) is larger than any other bomber I own. It’s at least a Medium to Large by normal standards. It actually fits like the vintage ones as worn by shorter guys in the 60s, but interested friends of a smaller stature would be swamped. God knows how big the L is. Still I’ve grown used to the slightly oversized look and it will look in the autumn sporting a Hardy Kruger style navy roll neck underneath (see below).

There are three colours – navy, natural and sky blue. I was tempted to buy the natural as well but really I think they missed a trick with this colour as the lining plaid is of a tediously brown 1970s grandad sponge nylon slippers check – where it could have been a glorious madras inspired fabric. Maybe that’s some northern terrace wear nod to some reference of which I’m blissfully unaware? The two blue colours have far more interesting contrasting plaid linings.

Overall though, it’s a really good alternative to the tombola that it is buying vintage on eBay – not least because the condition of used jackets is often far worse than eBay seller images show. It’s also neat enough to wear in a slightly smarter way a la James Coburn.

Back to the Source – Catalina Varsity in Mint Condition

Buying the Oi Polloi version has given me renewed interest in trying to find an original in natural. I’ve been through at least half a dozen over the years in the search. So many of the Catalina and Derby jackets on eBay have been worked to death – the first tell tale sign being a broken leather hanger tab in the neck. This time out I’m hoping I found one that that appears very little used.

I’m going mainly on the image of the washtag that the seller posted. It looks mint which means it won’t have been mullered by some hot rod kid’s Mom in the 60s twin tub. It’s also a Long so the body should be at least 26″ in length and more in line with modern body shapes.

We’ll see when it arrives from LA via my old Ivy pal, reader Fred.

 More Wearers of The Iconic Rain Cape Shoulder Jacket

Some Vintage Catalina Labels

(Source Vintage Fashion Guild)

I Spy The Ivy Years

I Spy 1965 – 1968

Among the raft of classic US TV series to feature the kind of clothes that we all love, I Spy is up there with the best.

In the first series Kelly Robinson and Alexander Scott are wearing some staple boom years ivy with the usual Hollywood modifications. A double vent sack here, a two button cuff OCBD there, but all in all it’s a great place to see some classic items being worn in anger and featured in a way that was unusual for the time.

Ivy Icons

Desert boots, Rolex Pepsi, White Levis even early trainers made their mark.

Personally I prefer the series where the guys are in the US west or in Mexico where the other incidental characters are also more likely to be wearing ivy staples.

By the end of the run Robert Culp was virtually in flares and v-necked / turtle necked sweater combos and his late 1950s hangover hair style was entering early bouffant stage, whilst Cosby was showing the influences of black power style on some his choices. In between there are some iconic style moments and worth sitting through some of the script by numbers episodes to catch the odd pair of loafers, a mid sixties popover shirt or a white tennis monkey jacket.

I Spy on Hulu

After all, it’s the only reason we watch this stuff on Hulu right? And the music of course.

Here’s a link to Film Score Monthly’s notes on their CD release

STOP PRESS – More I Spy Stuff…

Reader George sent this link to Jake’s Rolex Blog on the I Spy watch fetish here

Sidney Poitier Head to Toe in Lee Westerners

An unusual and interesting movie from director Ralph Nelson and featuring Sidney wearing the all out Lee Westerners 101 sateen suit with rough out boots. A look that’s hard to pull off. I’ve yet to wear my Japanese reissue 101J with the matching pants. You need a perfect day and a Leith Surfer T in blue and white stripes to pull it off.

(Still image from The Woolster on FNB – thanks to George).

Here We Go Again,Weejun…

As anyone who’s ever attempted to maintain a blog will testify, it’s tough. Time is the biggest enemy. Next comes ease of use – from the almost book length posts of traditional blogs many of us moved to the easy sound[word]bites of Tumblr an Facebook. Whilst they both have their virtues, it’s hard to maintain a focus on media that scrolls into obscurity every ten seconds.

Trad Blogging

So here I am back on the trad platform, but I’m going to try and incorporate some of the elements of ‘fast’ social media so that a) I can add content on the fly, whether on the train, or even watching TV – photos, YouTube movie clips etc and b) keep the content a bit fresher by poaching elements of other people’s content when it’s relevant and of course linking back to the source. After all, that’s all we all do on Facebook.

New Look/Old Style

The last post I was working on for The Weejun ended up being a bitter diatribe against the wholesale trashing of the Baracuta brand by WP the new owners. I got so fed up with the negative side of it all that I never got around to posting anything else on here. Finally, the site – which enjoys huge traffic by the way – got hacked by evil pharma spammers. I had to put it right, and in doing so, it occurred to me to go one step beyond and get this baby running again.

So, thanks for stopping by,

The Weejun.

White Levi’s by The Majorettes – 1963

Here’s some light hearted fun to blow away the January blues. A 45 from 1963 used to promote the new ‘White Levi’s”, so-called because they weren’t blue and had a white tag. Some reissues are out this month from LVC, but meanwhile here’s the single on YouTube.

“White Levi’s, Tennis Shoes, Surfin’ Hat and Big Plaid Pendleton Shirt”.

The Department Store Museum: 1960s Ivy ‘Varsity’ Shops

Classic 1960s ‘Varsity Shop’ Fare – with all the Ivy Trimmings From Newton Street Vintage

Often when we find some vintage clothing, especially shirts like Gant or Sero, they will have had the store name tags made up and sewn in alongside the brand. This kind of co-branding for local loyalty was common in the US and a kind of precursor to the ubiquitous Brand X Hip Store that we see today.

Nowhere was this more evident than on the boom years ivy style sports jacket. For around a decade from around 1958 to 1968, the concept of dressing like an idealised Ivy League student was mass market in a way that’s hard to imagine today. From local menswear stores with names like The Toggery, to large single state or city based departments stores (and all the way to Hollywood & The Ivy Look), the ‘Varsity’ name sold lifestyle clothing to men and boys – many of whom would never go near an Ivy League college in their lives. In a country obessessed with change and wiping away the past, clothing for both men and women maintained a curious set of rules and traditions that are still visible in today’s global American based brands.

Seen as it is today as a particularly 1960s phenomenon, it’s also easy to forget that the fashion for the ivy look was even then a retro one – tweeds, lapped seams, framed patch and flap pockets, white bucks, buckle back chinos, button down oxfords – these were all items with their roots firmly in the clothing of the 1920s and 30s pre-war elite (and even then an idealised idea of Oxbridge elites).

For the everyman who wanted to fit in, a ‘Varsity Shop’ existed as a kind of mainstream alternative to the on-campus Co Op stores and was seen as a ‘must have’ for any mid to upmarket department store.

Today I bought this classic mid 60s jacket from Newton Street Vintage, typical of the fashion of the day (as opposed to the unchanging ‘trad’ of the day like J Press or even Brooks Brothers). The label intrigued me, but a quick search online found this wonderful website – a resource for all those who want to find out a bit more about the provenance of their off the peg ivy togs.

Label Shows the Denholm’s of Worcester Varsity Shop

This jacket came from Denholm’s of Worcester, and you can see from the entry here that the Varsity Shop was located on the Third Floor and would have been aimed at a younger late early twenties demographic. (Check out the wonderfully pun-named ‘The Poise And Ivy Shop’ on the Chatham Street listing!!)

The Department Store Museum is curated by a Polish American guy called BAK and is an amazing resource dedicated to the American department stores of yesteryear.

As the intro says:

The on-line museum of North America’s independent department stores. The museum holds all sorts of information about classic department stores which either no longer exist, or are changed beyond recognition. A few of them are still with us, and provide an interesting connection to North America’s retail past. The others are presented so that they may be properly remembered as a tangible part of the lives of their customers, shopping destinations where memories were often made.

Well worth a browse.

“Going up!”

Steve McQueen – Alternative Frames From the LIFE Archive

I know blogs with photos of McQueen are two a penny these days but, whilst searching for something else, I accidentally came across around fifty or so images from Life that I hadn’t seen before – basically the alternate frames from images that have been published everywhere. The reason may be the spelling mistake in the archive that separates these images from all the other LIFE images of McQueen.

You may have seen some of them before, but I’m sure there are some here that are lesser known because of this error. There were probably around 100 images all told, but I’ve not included the many motorcycle or scrambling images, mainly the ones with some clothing visuals.



The Brooks Brothers Time Machine: 1980 Deadstock

Vintage Brooks Brothers Haul

It’s generally agreed that the end of the line for Brooks Brothers began when Marks & Spencer took over the company in 1988. (Brooks was charged with being an arrogant and remote institution but that is matched only by M&S whose arrogance and business practices led in part to the decline of the British manufacturing of staple clothing items – a story for another day). Since then, there has been the steady deterioration and loss of their own stylistic confidence to the point where Brooks is no more than a ghost of its former glory. Whilst other brands feign a ‘heritage’ that was never really that important – they just managed to survive mostly by luck – Brooks can claim a heritage and influence that rivals Savile Row or Milan on twentieth century menswear. A history not to be sniffed at, and certainly not to be squandered by the current crop of owners who are only one step up from M&S in their misunderstanding of this once great institution.

The Catalogue Days

For those not lucky enough to be able to regularly visit 346 Madison Avenue, Brooks Brothers had the printed catalog(ue). A seasonal sample of the best or latest lines of traditional clothing and accoutrements which enabled those in far flung Macon Georgia or even North London, England to buy into the classic American tradition. For the price of a transatlantic phone call (by today’s standards, probably about twenty five dollars) or a humble reply coupon, Brooks would agree to send their catalogues to anyone, anywhere.

Browsing the print catalogues in the mid to late 80s I would make lists of all the items I would buy – if only I had the money. Usually two or three friends and I would pool together to make purchases from Brooks or LL Bean to justify the expense of air freight in those days. Then we’d call up and go through the items with the telephone sales staff, always friendly and courteous and often amazed that we were calling from ‘London, England’. Customs too, added a heavy tariff but for a brief time at least, the dollar was 2:1 to the pound, and for us creative types with no fixed income in our early twenties, we felt a little rich when working out the prices of these rara avis iviana.

The quality of the items from both Brooks and Bean in those days was truly outstanding. The equivalent quality in England held little interest for us (outside of woollens from W Bill or Westaway & Westaway, or of course pre-imported American goods from John Simons). Not only was the traditional British look (that is the real look, not the Americanised ivy version) associated with old fogeys and all of local connotations of that fusty scene, but the clothes on sale at Brooks and Bean represented a contemporary escape back into what we thought then were vintage movies, old National Geographic copies and jazz album covers (and by no means only the stereotypical Blue Note covers). Even in the 80s Brooks catalogues often had illustrations of the items rather than photographs which were often reserved simply to show fabric details rather than the whole garment.

Looking back, it strikes me as odd how, in 1983 for instance, 1963 – a time of style in movies and music that we pored over and longed to replicate – was in fact only twenty years prior. That’s equivalent of today’s 1993, ironically in which year I remember wearing Filson, Bean duck boots, chambray work shirts, flap ear hunting caps and US made 501s – all the stuff of modern beardy workwear dreams that in 1993 must have simply looked odd to contemporaries in their Madchester baggy styles.

I’ve always watched American movies of any era for the clothing. From spotting an early knife pleated Brooks button down in an early 1930s movie to Clark W Griswold’s chinos and Lacoste combination from National Lampoon’s Vacation – the inherent traditionalism in American clothing, in a society that constantly promoted change in everything else, always intrigued me.

Anyway the reason for this musing is that I recently stumbled across a haul of deadstock items from Brooks Brothers, all with tags and all seemingly from a long remembered past catalogue. Now, I no longer have those original print catalogues, but thanks to the work of the awesome Heavy Tweed Jacket scanning some of his originals I was able to research back and find that, just as I thought, all of these items were featured in the Fall/Winter or Christmas catalogues for 1980.

So here are some of the items – I bought a couple of them, thought about some others, but really I’ve stopped buying stuff that I know isn’t going to fit me properly, just because it’s an amazing deadstock find. I’ve no idea where the seller found them or whether there are more treasures lurking in the same place. I suspect not.

Flat Front Corduroy Slacks in Tan

These lovely cords were a size too big for me so were picked up by Fred in LA. The WPL number says they were made by Salant Corporation, a US maker with big contracts making for the US military back then – I have some 1969 dated surplus chinos made by the same factory.

That wonderful golden syrup colour cord that was once such a staple is hard to find these days. Most similar modern colours are somewhat off.

The Brooks Brothers Alexander Trench Coat with Removable Zip Liner & Collar

The trench coat seemed to start taking over from the single fly fronted balmacaan raincoat in the early 60s – witness Steve McQueen in Love With the Proper Stranger – but really took hold in the 1970s and 80s. Never was an American tourist spotted in London without his (or her) full-on all-singing-all-dancing Burberry trench – with the zip out liner and the woollen collar cover, something by the way, that I never saw an Englishman wearing at the time. These Americans probably believed they looked British in this style and were blending in with the locals, much in the way that people in the 80s wearing Italian designer labels believed they dressed like real Italians, who were busy wearing English and American classics. (In the late 80s I met Ermingildo Zegna in Bond St the week he opened his store there. He was dressed head to toe in English tweed, Harvie & Hudson shirts and Trickers brogues. When I asked him about this he laughed and said ‘we Italians make fashion to sell, but we don’t wear it’. He meant Italians of a certain breeding of course, but a trip down the Via Montenapoleone these days will show these same Italians have descended to wearing Russian mafia style D&G).

Anyway, enough digressing. This model, the Alexander was probably made in the US and possibly by London Fog who offered a similar model with contrast coloured buttons and a sharper lapel cut than the Burberry standard.

Someone got a bargain here.

Next up, a pair of classic flat fronted corduroys with a twist.

The Holiday Season Cordurory ‘Fun’ Slacks

Every season Brooks used to introduce some kind of ‘fun’ product (fun being their term, not mine). For Christmas 1980 it was the colour block corduroys. I nearly bought these just for the cut so that I could get them copied in regular colours but I ended up passing on them. They are either hideous or almost wearable depending on your point of view (or highly desirable for certain preppy bloggers) but I thought about how I’d keep a straight face on the underground when faced with local urchins taking the piss and declined. This time the urchins would be right.

You can tell from the photographs, however, that the making is superb. Incidentally, this kind of quality is still available from the some of the trousers made by Hertling in Brooklyn and sold by J Press and John Simons currently.

The Suede Touring Cap

Now we have something I confess to buying back in the 80s to wear when driving my 1973 Peugeot 304S with the top down and a tape deck playing Jimmy Giuffre – imagining I was in a small town in Maine and not Crouch End – a pigskin suede driving cap or Touring Cap as the contemporary LL Bean catalogue called it.

This was the kind of item that often said ‘Imported’ next to the description and would have come from Spain, Portugal or Italy perhaps.  I missed out when Brooks had theirs in the catalogue (other items got in the way) but did end up buying one from LL Bean around 1990 that was a bit too vapid a colour to make proper use of.

This deadstock Brooks one I bought. I buy caps and hats every time I ever travel anywhere, I have a big collection of them, but for some reason, like holiday romances, they never survive coming home. Hopefully, I will get some open top motoring use out of this.

Here we have some vintage Brooksgate flannels.

Cut for the younger customer and, because of the decade, fairly slim but straight. These were too short for me otherwise I would have bought them.

The Reversible Yellow Slicker

A classic that has seen a resurgence due to the proliferation of the reprint of Take Ivy is the reversible boating jacket/slicker – again a Brooksgate item, for pairing with chinos and either Sperry Topsiders or CVOs, with an OCBD and Shetland sweater underneath, and featured in the Christmas 1980 catalogue.

I thought about it, but vintage vinyl doesn’t age well, and there was no way of knowing how this stuff had been stored. Lovely item though, and someone got a piece of east coast style history. I particularly like the tag that says ‘I’m Reversible’. It was Made in China, too so an early example of asian outsourcing for Brooks.

The Alan Paine of Godalming Shetland Sweater

Not a Brooks item per se, but of a common vintage and quality is this deadstock Alan Paine of Godalming shetland in ‘Grapefruit’ yellow. Now, Americans not familiar with British geography could be forgiven for imagining that Alan Paine hails from some far-flung windswept isle where the crofters wear peat jackets and cook haggis in single malt whiskey, but the reality is more prosaic: Godalming in the Home Counties. Still Alan Paine was a major force in British woollens exports in the 20th century and regularly advertised in the American media.

In the last couple of years it has finally become much easier to find decent Shetland sweaters again – that is the traditional saddle shoulder crew neck version. However, outside of O’Connells (I really can’t pay £100 plus shipping to send one back across the Atlantic) and certain Japanese web stores on Rakuten who never seem have stock, finding a Shetland in this kind of vivid ivy colour is damned hard. Heathers are great and have their place, and as I’m writing this I’m wearing a deep burgundy solid, but sometimes you want a Shetland sweater to lift the ensemble, say under a navy or olive cord jacket, or navy G9. So I jumped at this one. At £35 I think I got a bargain.

These items may represent the fringes of the clothing in those catalogs that you or I would jump at if we could buy them today, but together they form a part of a history that is now sadly past. For me it isn’t a personal form of nostalgia for days when it was all fantastic – it was already virtually impossible to buy anything but crap in England in 80s as designer mania took hold – even then my friends and I had but a handful of places to buy clothes from and no internet to source with, but it is still sad to see pass.

Thanks go to Heavy Tweed Jacket for scanning these images from Brooks’ catalogues. Check out his excellent blog here

UPDATE: Reader Gary Warnett has posted some further images of the BB ‘fun’ pants collections from past catalogues over on his blog