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.