Braun Calculator

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Sometimes it’s not about doing the different but its about doing the similar only looking and functioning better.

I recently received a birthday gift from a very old friend, a Limited Edition white Braun Calculator. My pal has particularly good taste – obviously other than his clearly suspect taste in friends – and I know that he has championed, amongst other products, these perfect, stylish and durable calculators for years.

A little like the argument about why do you need a camera or a calculator when you have an IPhone? Surely they cover the same bases. Yes but no. Admittedly, you may need more than pockets or even a brief case to carry your choice of camera, calculator, Filofax – which, mark my words is about to see a resurgence supported by ‘back to basics’ and ‘digital detoxing’ Millennials – wallet, alarm clock and phone but there is something fun and creative in developing your portfolio of preferred items and relishing their use for their specialized task.

You are probably saying, Braun, don’t they make shavers, depilatory trimmers and hairstyling tools – and you’d be right. Originally, only available in black the iconic ET44 and ET66 Braun Calculator (the latter has an additional and very useful slide on protective cover) were collaboratively designed by Dietrich Lubs and Dieter Rams in 1977 and 1987, respectively.

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Dieter Rams, joined Braun in 1955, a German business originally founded by Engineer, Max Braun, who made radio sets in Frankfurt in 1921, and it comprises a beautiful and practical example of Rams’ lean design philosophy “weniger, aber besser” – literally “less, but better”. It is said that early Apple designers – Rams is known to have been a huge influence on Apple’s chief designer, Jonathan Ives – were so influenced by the look of the ET44 that the original IPhone calculator app, down to the yellow “equals” button, and the early incarnations of the IPod bore striking resemblances to the Lubs/Rams designs, including the ET44.

The ET44 and ET66 are not Rams and Lubs’ only iconic collaboration for Braun. From 1971, we also have the the charming and hugely tactile AB1A travel alarm clock, another exceptional example of function, great design and adherence to Rams’ simple design mantra. It’s almost a pleasure to wake up to its shrill chirrup!

If you’d like to add these beautiful, highly practical and iconic objects to your personal collection please click the AMAZON link below the image in the following gallery.

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Braun Calculator – White

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Braun Calculator – Black

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Braun Classic Square Travel Alarm Clock BNC002WHWH – White

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Braun Classic Square Travel Alarm Clock BNC002BK – Black

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Image credits – with grateful thanks – Braun AG and Zeon Ltd.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

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If you ask anyone raised in Europe or the US between the 1960’s to 1980’s to name an iconic and impactful TV programme, I can assure you that for many the under water natural history films of Jacques Cousteau would rank very high on a not very long list.

From the curious French soundtrack of slightly strident strings, to the Gallic, faltering commentary – I can never hear the French pronouciation of the name “Philippe” (one of his four children) without thinking of Capt Cousteau – this was pioneering television at its best. It left such an impact on us, a Jacques-Yves Cousteau sized hole that I suspect David Attenborough fills, but who was Cousteau?

Born 11th June 1910, Cousteau, in 1930 studied at the École Navale in Brittany (West France) after graduation he joined the French Navy. His commission was brief curtailed by a car accident where he sustained breaks to both arms. In 1937 he married Simone, the mother of his first two sons, Jean-Michel and Phillipe, who both would accompany their father on subsequent adventures.

In the late 1930’s Jacques first used diving goggles and in 1943 he received an award for the first French underwater film, filmed on a pressurized camera, entitled “Par dix-huit mètres de fond“ (“18m Deep”). The same year Cousteau’s team made “Epaves” (“Shipwrecks”) – which resulted in his commission to establish the French Navy’s Underwater Research Group based in Toulon. During filming he using pro-type aqua-lungs incorporating the recently invented demand regulator.

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The resultant freedom of the Aqua-lung allowed his team to explore the depths of the oceans of the World and document them through a myriad of films. His first films from the late 1940’s were celebrated at the Cannes Film Festival in 1951 and his early adventures were captured in his book published in 1953 “The Silent World”.

In 1956, a film of entitled “The Silent World”, made with famed director Louis Malle won the Palm d’Or at Cannes and an Academy Award for the Best Documentary in 1957. The Rolex Submariner – Rolex – The Submariner – the first divers’ watch waterproof to a depth of 100 metres with a rotatable bezel showing the diver their immersion time, was featured prominently in his film which shows Cousteau wearing a pre-launch Submariner The Silent World – The Film

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Leaving the Navy in 1949 he founded in 1950 the French Oceanographic Campaign (FOC) and leased his trusty ship Calypso from its owner, for a symbolic one franc a year, and wealthy benefactor, Thomas Loel Guinness.

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The documentaries commissioned by US TV stations, “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau ran from 1966 to 1976 followed by a second series “The Cousteau Odyssey” from 1977 to 1982. Cousteau had spent time growing up living in the US so his English was excellent but he retained his Gallic accent that added much to the authenticity of his films.

In 1979, Phillipe – Cousteau’s favourite child – was sadly killed when a sea plane he was piloting crashed in Portugal.

Following Simone’s death in 1990, in 1991 Cousteau remarried, Francine, already the mother of his two other children. Cousteau died from a heart attack on 25th June 1997 and Francine continues her husband’s work as President of the Cousteau Foundation and Cousteau Society. The Museum in Monaco – where Cousteau was a Director from 1957 to 1988 – is well worth a visit.

In the early 1970’s, like many other teenagers I enjoyed snorkeling. The clear influence of Capt. Cousteau stimulated my interest to know more that resulted in my first steps to undertake the British Sub-Aqua Club’s training course that included pool and open water diving. For quite some time, prior to me realizing my future lay not in the sciences, in response to that irritating question from a friend of my parents, “What do you want to do?” my response was always “To be a Marime Biologist” – Merci Capt. Jacques!

A lasting tribute in Cousteau’s own words: “The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.”

Join Jacques Cousteau’s on his undersea adventures – by clicking the Amazon link below the image 

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Jacques Cousteau – The Ultimate Collection [DVD] [2007]

May be for those who are not yet ready for Capt. Cousteau’s Ultimate Collection and would – how do you say – like to put a toe in the water….the Undersea World of Jacque Cousteau must the finest starting point – click the Amazon link after the image 

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The Undersea World Of JACQUES COUSTEAU 6 DVD Box Set PAL

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Image credit – with grateful thanks – Globalfirstandfacts.com, The Cousteau Foundation, The Cousteau Society, ABC, NBC, Metromedia and Fred Muller II.

Mike Hawthorn – 1958 Formula One World Champion

 

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At the weekend, with a couple of my kids, I visited the Brooklands Museum – see the Museums website here  – Brooklands Museum in Weybridge Surrey the home of British Aviation and early Motor Racing. My late father had been an early Trustee of the Museum assisting it to secure substantial support from Shell, his former employer. I am told there is a plaque to his memory on site but, sadly, we couldn’t locate it.

My father was a very keen follower of Motor Racing, he ran part of Shell’s  commitment to sport and visited tracks all over the world in the 1970’s and 80’s. As kids we even lived in the village of Silverstone.

Prior his early years in the Army and then in commerce in Africa and elsewhere, my Dad was schooled at Ardingly College in West Sussex. A rather typical English Boarding School which produced well rounded chaps in the 1940’s. His close friends and contemporaries included Bill Cotton (the son of the 1940’s Band Leader, “Billy Cotton”, who became the head of BBC TV) and John Michael (“Mike”) Hawthorn, who because of his hair coloring, was nicknamed “Snowball”. See our previous post mentioning Mike Hawthorn here – Morgan Cars

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Born in Yorkshire on 10th April 1929 this blond and debonair young man was an iconic British racing driver and the very essence of what made motoracing glamourous. He drove a Ferrari and his penchant for racing in a bow tie did much to concrete his reputation as a gentleman racer of the finest tradition. Behind his steely blue eyes lay a depth of grit and ambition that would see him secure the Formula One World Championship alongside a host of other trophies.

Mike Hawthorn’s biography “Challenge Me The Race” carries the line “The first motor races I ever saw were at Brooklands. I was only a very small boy, but to me it was heaven to watch the cars thundering round those towering cliffs of concrete where the banking curved under the Members’ Bridge, to wander along the lines of brightly coloured cars in their stalls in the paddock, to jump as an exhaust snarled suddenly and to sniff the aroma of castor oil.”

Leslie, Mike’s father had relocated from Doncaster to Farnham, Surrey – opening The Tourist Trophy Garage in 1931 – to be nearer Brooklands. His father is said to have driven a young Mike in a Riley 2.0 litre around the legendary track thus sealing his ambition to race. This must have been a fascinating era with the Sunbeam, Napier Railtons and Bentleys battling on the banked curves of the Brooklands circuit.

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Mike started racing bikes in 1947 and after a period in Formual Two driving a Cooper Bristol and being courted by the Jaguar team – managed by Lofty England –  he joined the Ferrari Team in 1953. He suffered burns following a crash in 1954 in Syracuse (Italy) and whilst  hospitalized his father was tragically killed in a car accident. Mike joined Jaguar in 1955 as team leader, replacing Stirling Moss. After a tragic Le Mans in 1955 and a week Jaguar performance at the same race in 1956 – which led to Jaguars retirement from racing – in 1957 Hawthorn rejoined Ferrari.

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On 19th October 1958 – nearly 60 years ago – driving for Scuderia Ferrari, Mike failed to win the Moroccan Grand Prix at the newly built Ain-Diab Circuit. He was beaten into second place by Stirling Moss driving a Vanwall. Despite his position, Hawthorn secured, by a single point (total 42 points), the 1958 Formula One World Championship, the first British driver to do so. Moss came second with 41 points. Anoraks will be amused to note that Bernie Ecclestone competed in the same race – one of only two starts ever by Bernie in a Formula One – the second being the same year at Silverstone.

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Immediately following the race Hawthorn announced his retirement from motoracing after eight amazing years. Sadly, the 29 year old champ was unwell following the loss of his friend Peter Collins and a recurrent, and, many have said probably terminal, kidney complaint.

Sadly on 22nd January 1959 Mike was killed in a British Racing Green, Mark 1 3.4 litre Jaguar – Reg VDU 881 – that had been loaned to him by the Jaguar team, that crashed on the Guilford by-pass. Whilst the circumstances are unclear it seems that on the wet surface with a witness attesting to seeing his car traveling at around 100 mph, he may have been racing Mercedes Team’s Rob Walker, who was driving a gull-winged doored Mercedes 300 SL.

See this dated Pathe newsreel announcing in its staccato voice over the sad news of Mike’s death  Mike Hawthorn Killed

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Image credits – used with grateful thanks Brooklands Museum, Pathe News and Motor Sports Magazine

MGB

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I was flattered to be asked to contribute To the January-February 2018 edition of The London Magazine – the Capital’s oldest. I was asked to write their 25th “My London” piece which you can see here please – My London by Mark FR Wilkins . I refer to one of London’s tribes, as a  “typical” MGB owner. I suggest that this still holds largely true, despite that the owner may now be in his 70’s although the corduroy’s will still be worn!

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These are adored British cars that have even described by Simon Chalesworth in his brilliant piece on the MGB in February 2018’s “Classic and Sports Car”, as the “gateway drug into whatever this is that we do with old cars”. I understand, that a good quality example of an MGB can be acquired at reasonable cost and by a proficient mechanic or a hired hand it can be up, running and looking fine in reasonably short order and comparable cost.

The MGB is a four cylinder, two-door British roadster – open topped/rag roofed sports car – produced by British Motor Corporation, later British Leyland, between 1962 and 1980, from its famed Abingdon (Oxfordshire) works. It used braking and suspension from the MGA and the engine dated to a design from the late 1940’s.

A previous outing of the MG brand was seen in Aestheticons with the MGA – please see here our previous piece – MG – MGA

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The MGA is a stunner and I thought it couldn’t be surpassed but those who know tell me that the MGB is infinitivly more fun and certainly a greater level of comfort – particularly later models – over its predecessor. The Sunbeam Alpine, also featured here before, seems to have set an newly raised bar one that the MGB sought to attain –  see our earlier post here – Sunbeam Alpine – Bond’s first car

Below is an MGB Mk 1, in Tartan red with a black interior and red piping. It was built in Abingdon in February 1963 and was an early car; the MGB being first shown to the market in September 1962. This car, a stunning example, is Norwegian owned and had 22 previous owners!

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The MGB with its 1798 cc BMC B-Series engine – which was upgraded in 1964 and again in 1967 – initially achieved a 0–60 is around 11 seconds but required detuning in 1975 to be comply to stricter US emission standards, the US being a key export market – you’ll note our featured image is a left hooker. The same year the MGB, which was one of the first cars to benefit from crumple zone technology, was fitted with black polyurethane bumpers to comply yet further with the US Health & Safety codes – some see these as a blight the MGB’s otherwise clean lines and great looks.

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Variants including the MGB GT – which first appeared in 1965 – the MkII MGB and MGC that both appeared in late 1967 with the latter benefitting from a six cylinder engine in a MkII MGB body. With around 9000 examples of the MGC made by August 1969 it was withdrawn and is highly regarded by collectors for its ride and handling.
 In 1993-5 the MGB bodyshell was brought out of retirement by Rover and used for a limited 2000 MG RV8 roadsters to celebrate the MGB’s 30th Anniversary.
As much as I adore these splendid small English sports car my garage is destined for others. I’d be more than keen to have a die-cast model of an MGB on the shelf in my Man Cave – join me by clicking the Amazon link below the image! 

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MG B MGB Cabrio grün Modellauto 10002 T9 1:43

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Photo credits with grateful thnaks – Trygve Sørli/www.petrolicious.com, The London Magazine, Marc Vorgers,

Brompton Bicycles

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I really like to cycle. There’s a “wind in your hair” moment – obviously beneath your safety helmet – when you appreciate the liberty of your pace but also the penny drops that you are actually doing yourself some good. Stamina and a general feeling of wellbeing improve immensely from bike riding.

If you are a City commuter then the idea of riding to work may be somewhat daunting. Aside from the perils of other road users, including the crazy antics of cycle messengers/couriers – who are very time poor – and the inconsideration often shown to pedal power by motorists there are distinct health and wealth benefits. Provided the weather holds, many Cities now have dedicated bike routes offering the cyclists a reasonably direct line between home, through parks and tunnels to emerge close to their work place.

Once you arrive at work – what on earth do you do with your prized bike? You can park it in a designated cycle rack with all manner of heavy “U” locks or chains seeking to prevent theft or why not carry it and place it under your desk!

Yes, armed with an engineering degree from Cambridge University and a somewhat thwarted career in computer science, Andrew Richie’s City Analysist father introduced him to those seeking to commercialize the Bickerton Bike. A patented model of collapseable bike produced entirely from aluminum profiles with no welding and reasonably light.

After extensive modification of the earlier idea to ensure that the dirtiest parts of the bike – primarily the chain – were central to the folded vehicle and named after the Brompton Oratory that could be seen from his flat, in Egerton Gardens, where he developed the first prototypes, James filed his second patent in 1979 for his folding bike. The Patent was granted on the 30th May 1984.

I am very relieved to hear that James Ritchie appears to be in that rare group of perhaps eccentric British inventors, that would logically include James Dyson and Clive Sinclair and Trevor Baylis, that are truely obsessed by their design and live and breath the prospect for their invention. Mr Richie certainly believed in his invention and spent an inordinate amount of time bringing it to market. He readily admits to being a perfectionist for whom all the design and manufacturing details needed to be just right. His belief has proved to be correct.

The Brompton is an iconic and memorable site on the street of London, New York and San Francisco.

His modesty as to his design talents is disarming. He quite rightly notes that he combined the elements of a bicycle that have been around since the Victorian era. He credits Alex Moulton – who we first heard of in relation to his design work on the suspension of Sir Alec Issigonnis’ Mini – see our pervious post here – Mini – the best selling car in Britain  who popularized the smaller wheeled bicycle and without this Mr Richie believes that he would not have conceived the idea of the Brompton.

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It appears that a favourite pastime for the legions of fans of the Brompton folding bike – aside from selecting your preferred vehicle from the company’s wide range of options, alternative parts and accessories that may be tailored to your individual needs – is to add a Brooks saddle, perhaps giving the bike a slightly more noble look. We have celebrated the iconic saddles made by Brooks in Smethwick (West Midlands) – please see our earlier post here – Brooks bicycle saddle

The cleaver team at Brompton based at their production facility in West London have devised and recently launched a Brompton bike that is powered by human and battery! See their video here Brompton’s First Electric Bike

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Can I interest you in a Brompton? The ever popular M6L model is available in either blue or black – please click on the Amazon link below the image of each bike

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BROMPTON M6L 2017 Tempest Blue Folding Bike

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BROMPTON M6L 2017 Black Folding Bike

Or perhaps you’d prefer the same look in a lighter Brompton bike – the H6L – please click the link below the image

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Brompton H6L Superlight 2017 Folding Bike Black Titanium

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The Independent, one of the UK’s more objective newspapers, in June 2018, carried a very well reasoned piece concerning electric bikes – including Brompton’s very own version. Read the piece By David Phelan here Best Electric Bikes

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Image Credits – with grateful thanks Brompton Bicycles and James Richie

Billingham 225 Camera Bag

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Returning to my core mission of celebrating aesthetically pleasing and classically designed icons mention must be made of the beautiful English made bags of M Billingham and Co Ltd – better known to us as “Billingham Bags”.

In 1973, Martin Billingham founded his eponymous business making fishing bags and forty years on the business is still in family ownership. Indeed the essence of the light brown canvas bags are reminiscent of a trout fishing bag my father gave me over forty years ago complete with many internal sections for reels and tackle. By 1978 it was discovered that a large number of their bags were being sold to a New York based photographer thus igniting the most important connection between these durable water-resistant canvass and rubber bonded bags, edged in finest leather and their obvious target market.

Typically a Billingham bag is full of sections divided by velcro sided foam panels that can be varied to accommodate several lenses, camera bodies, flash units and filters. The larger models also feature external straps to hold tripods.

The world of photography has undergone a revolution in its transition to digital image capture and a trend away from larger SLR type cameras – Please check out here our piece on the new Hasselblad X1D – Hasselblad X1D to the more convenient “point and shoot” or even the use of a high pixel camera like that of the new iPhone X. Yet it seems that the future of the Billingham bag, as the bag of choice for the professional or serious amateur  photographer, seems set for many years to come. The Billingham range has also evolved to offer a range of smaller bags designed for compact cameras and their accessories.

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I bought my first Billingham bag, a large brown canvass 225 with chestnut leather piping, in the late 1980’s to accommodate my beloved SLR camera, a Nikon 801 body – to which I had attached a Nikon motor drive – and had a large flash unit, several Nikkor zoom and wide angled lenses, straps, boxes of Ilford and Kodachrome film – both black and white and colour – and a tripod. It was an excellent collection that I used regularly and produced some pretty decent photos. My habit of saving both boxes and receipts from my favourite camera shop “Fox Talbot” (that merged with lager rival “Jessops” in 1998 now owned by TV’s Dragon’s Den investor, Peter Jones) stood me in good stead. In the middle 1990’s, when we were away on holiday and our house was being renovated and some light fingered painter/decorator stole my entire Billingham bag and its contents. The insurance company were impressed by my proofs of purchase and refunded the entire loss allowing me to replace my favourite bag and its contents.

For me the most adaptable bag in the current Billingham range – and there are more expensive ones – and the one I have owned for several years, is the Billingham 225 – see here a live review of this bag –Billingham 225 camera bag

If you would like to enjoy the evident benefits of these most appealing icons of modern photography please click the AMAZON link below the image

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Billingham 225 Canvas Camera Bag With Tan Leather Trim – Khaki

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Image credits M. Billingham & Co Ltd and Hasselblad AB

Fruit of the Loom – T shirts

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A sharp frost – with night-time temperatures in the UK dipping well below zero – after a warm Easter reminds us that although we are tempted to close the cupboard door on our winter clothing, in fact Mother Nature has other ideas.

I am a big fan of layering and the base layer for me always tends to be a T-shirt in either long or short sleeves.

For many years I have worn T-shirts made by US corporation, “Fruit of the Loom” who are based in Bowling Green, (Kentucky, USA). The company employs 32,000 people world-wide, Fruit of the Loom shares its headquarters with the excellent Russell Brands (that include one-time rapper favourite’s “Russell Athletic”) – which it acquired in in August 2006 – and is a subsidiary of The Sage of Omaha/Warren Buffett’s mighty “Berkshire Hathaway”.

The T-shirt has only been around since 1913 – we recently ran a piece that celebrated its 100th birthday  Iconic T-Shirts – when US Navy recruits were issued for the first time with white crewneck T-shirts that were made to be worn under their uniforms, giving birth to an American icon.

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Fruit of the Loom was born in 1851 by brothers Benjamin and Robert Knight, textile miller owners from Warwick (Rhode Island USA) manufacturing cotton cloth  who was visiting a shop-keeper in Providence, Rhode Island (USA) who sold Knight’s cloth. Robert Knight saw the painted apples that the shop-keeper’s daughter had applied to the bolts off cloth, with those bearing the apples apparently the most popular. Knight thought that it would be the perfect symbol for his business “Fruit of the Loom”.

In 1871, a year after the trade-mark’s registry opened Knight was granted trademark number 418 for the “Fruit of the Loom” brand. (See above the evolution of the TM to date.)

In the late 1930 and for several decades, Jacob (Jack) Goldfarb’s Union Underwear became a a Fruit of the Loom licensee that propelled the brand aways from cloth manufacturing into great quality underwear.

A variety of unsuccessful ventures led to Fruit of the Loom filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1999 but Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, seeing the value of the brand, purchased the valuable brand in April 2002 for approximately $835m. On a equally sad note, in 2014 the company announced the closure of its Jamestown (Kentucky) plant with the loss of six hundred jobs. Production was moved to Honduras in an effort to reduce production costs with no appreciable reduction in quality.

A prevailing trend in much of Aestheticons work, particularly in relation those icons that originate in the US with its high labour costs, is that many manufacturers have moved production overseas. Central and Latin America are favourites, with The Far East, Morocco or Turkey also featuring.

Whilst I am convinced that a customer will pay a premium for a “home produced” garment or item – see the heritage lines of Dr Martens – Dr. Martens – and Clarks – Clarks Desert Boots – the profitability of brand owing businesses cannot be compromised. That said, a balance in the need to carefully control production to ensure that a customer is not simply buying his/her favourite brand that is attached to an inferior product. It’s the biggest challenge for a brand to manage overheads without any appreciable reduction in the quality of the finished item. Fruit of the Loom seem to have ensured that they retain much of their quality – both in terms of materials and finish, despite production being moved.

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How about adding some Fruit of the Loom T shirts to your ward robe – please click the Amazon link below the image to do just that – available in a variety of weights of fabric and a rainbow of colours – many are 100% cotton – an absolute favourite of mine.

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Fruit of the Loom Women’s Opaque V-Neck Short SleeveT-Shirt – Grey – Heather grey – 10

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Fruit of the Loom Men’s Super Premium Short Sleeve T-Shirt Pack Of 5, White/White/Black/Black/Ash, XX-Large

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Fruit of the Loom T-Shirts Pack of 5

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Fruit of the Loom Mens Plain Heavy Cotton T-Shirt Heather Grey Large

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Fruit of the Loom Heavy Cotton White Tee 2XL

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VéloSolex moped

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Increasingly dependent on getting from A to B as quickly as possible I have noticed a rise in commuters using electrically operated bicycles and small motorized scooters. They seem to offer limited comfort and even less protection for the rider who, for an inexplicable reason, think they have the power of a large Harley, BMW or Honda at their fingertips and get themselves into precarious positions on the road causing much frustration to others.

In a far gentler era the predecessor of these street demons was VéloSoleX or more frequently referred to as a Solex which was moped – or motorised bicycle – originally produced by Solex who were based in Paris (France) and founded by engineering friends, Maurice Goudard and Marcel Mennesson.

Designed by Mennesson during World War II, the Solex was produced between 1946 and 1988 in a variety of versions largely utilising the same technology of a motor with roller resting on and driving the front wheel of the bicycle.

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Being very competitively priced and hugely economical to run, the Soles was a massive success. In total it sold in excess of 7m units. In 1947 even BP created “Solexine”, a pre-mixed  oil and petrol mix for the Solex’s two stroke engine and sold in a 2L can. By the late 1940’s Solex was selling 100 units a day rising to 1500 a day by the mid-1960’s – when it was blessed with a new maximum – though limited – speed of 30 km.

The company now makes a range of electrically powered bicycles. An early version, designed by Pininfarina, was launched in 2005 as the E-Solex.

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By 2014 the Solexity Infinity was launched, again from the pen of Pininfarina – with capacity to travel up to 80 km on one charge – at the costs of around €2,000 – keeping the brand alive!

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As French as the Beret, Brie and Baguette, the Solex, a classic French icon of the mid-20th century, has a very special place in my psyche as I explored the opportunity in the 1980’s of importing them into the UK. It was perhaps my first brush with the ever increasing dominance of the words “Health & Safety” in our national idiom.

I was required to deliver details to the Ministry of Transport who after some consideration and lots of teeth sucking, decided that the fuel tank, which was then made of a reasonable durable plastic was too feeble to withstand any front-end impact and the risks of fire were too great.

Solex also commissioned various evocative advertising posters, which in their own right are increasingly collectable.

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For our French speaking friend’s – we know who you are – the equivalent of a an Owner’s Manual for a Vélosolex is a must – Le Guide du Vélosolex click the Amazon link below the image to get yours!

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Le guide du Vélosolex

Why not pick up a classic French VeloSolex enamel sign that will look at home in your Gite in La Gironde, on the wall of your Flat in Fulham or your Man-cave in Manchester! Click the AMAZON link below the image

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FRENCH VINTAGE METAL SIGN 40x30cm RETRO AD VELOSOLEX LE VRAI BICYCLESD2C56E9B-03F2-4C9E-AF3A-13C55668EEA2

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FRENCH VINTAGE METAL SIGN 40x30cm RETRO AD VELOSOLEX REFERENDUM 2

I love VeloSolex – and all this little motor cycle represents – you can too with this iconic T Shirt! Please click the Amazon link below the image 

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Velosolex Moped T-Shirt. Gents Ladies Kids Sizes. Bike Cycling France Motorcycle:X Large – 48″

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Photo Credits – with grateful thanks – Solex SA

Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

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I am giving serious thought to the expression “Favourite Car” in response to an enquirers question to name mine. Now, I thought I had a long-term and completely harmonious fictional relationship with a 1965 Porsche 911 Targa. See here our previous past Porsche 911 Targa 

No question my pulse quicken and my throat dries a little at the thought of those classic lines, that ticking engine and those long lazy sunny days mastering the hairpins down to La Corniche. Then, as if to upset the harmony of a steady relationship, a perfectly formed little nose nudges you and with winking classic headlights clears its throat and ask you if, perhaps with a little hesitation and possibly some disappointment, whether you have forgotten them.

They remind you of the mid-1970’s classic car magazine collection “On Four Wheels” – which to the best of my recollection ran for about three years and with each edition – after the usual “magazine-crack” two for one introductory offer – became increasingly more expensive. They remind you of this endless summer days with your childhood pal, Mike, when you’d visit car showrooms, argue about the merits of Italian cars versus German or French ones and write to “concessionaires” asking for brochures often to be inundated with coffee table sized promo materials featuring sleek new sleek Lamborghinis and Maseratis. Mike still has his collection of brochures stored in a garage – Ebay anyone?

One such car is Volkswagen’s iconic Karmann Ghia – especially the Cabriolet version. My Godmother has a hard topped version in grey and she was quite cool so that was how this pretty car became locked in my evolving psyche from the mid-sixties.

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The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia – based on the classic and mechanics of a first model Beetle – see our celebration of this amazing car here Volkswagen Beetle – an icon re-imagined –  was debuted as a design concept at the 1953 Paris Auto Show. Following launch, it was available in 2+2 coupe versions (from 1955 to 1974) and as a cabriolet (from 1957 to 1974).

The Karmann Ghia was a collaboration that featured the styling genius of Luigi Segre, of the legendary Turin based coach-builder, Carrozzeria Ghia (now owned by Ford), and the hand-shapes panelling  of German coach-builder Karmann – who VW had commissioned to develop the car. A massive success with over 445,000 cars built, the Karmann Ghia was extensively exported, particularly to the US market.

The VW Karmann Ghia Cabriolet was first introduced August 1957.

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The Cabriolet has, along with many cars in the VW range, been featured in a series of classic Doyle Dane and Bernbach (DDB) print media adverts in the 1950s and 60’s; so much so that DDB’s work with Volkswagen, who they have represented since 1959 (opening an office in Germany in 1961) was voted the No. 1 campaign of all time by Advertising Age’s 1999 “The Century of Advertising”.

A classic DD&B poster from the early 1960’s:

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In the early 1970’s, in response to increasing vehicle safety requirements, particularly in the US, the smooth chrome wrap-around bumpers were replaced with energy absorbing bumpers. By the mid 1970’s the model was phased out to be replaced, initially, by the Porsche 914 – never a particular favourite.

STOP PRESS: In the Gooding and Company Scottsdale Auction in January 2018 a 1963 hard topped version of the Karmann Ghia achieve a respectable $37,400 which whilst is not cheap does suggest that this fine German brand is an everyman collectible – see this lovely example and read here the Gooding and Company report Gooding and Company Karmann Ghia

Seen and loved the car – now get the T shirt – please click the AMAZON link under the image 

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VOLKSWAGEN KARMANN GHIA 1970 STENCIL MENS T SHIRT CLASSIC CAR (XXL(50-52), RED)

Read more about the history – here.

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Volkswagen Karmann Ghias and Cabriolets: 1949-1980

Essential mantelpiece material – a die cast model to keep those juices flowing!

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Minichamps 155054031 1:18 Scale “1970 VW Karmann Ghia Convertible Black” Replica Model Toy

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Karmann Ghia Type 14 Logo T-Shirt Oldtimer Car Cars Collector Driver Ralley Osnabrück Coupé Cabriolet 17156 – Grey – XX-Large

If you are lucky enough to find a Karmann Gaia in reasonable condition – and at a reasonable price – grab it! If successful you’ll need the iconic Haynes Manual to tell you just what to do to keep your beautiful car in fab condition.

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VW Beetle and Karmann Ghia (1954-79) Automotive Repair Manual (Haynes Automotive Repair Manuals)

If you liked this post please “Like” and share it with your friends. We’d really like to hear your experiences of the subject(s) featured in this post. Please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks

Images by West Coast Classics, Doyle Dane and Bernbach, Ara Howrani/Howrani Studios and Gooding and Company with grateful thanks

Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt

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Launched: 1972

Designer: Ralph Lifshitz (aka Ralph Lauren) developed his version of the Polo Shirt design – which was first launched by Rene Lacoste in 1933 – see our post here – Lacoste Shirt.

History: After designing and retailing ties, Ralph developed his Polo brand first with ties and then shirts – gaining the rights from Brooks Brothers (for whom he worked briefly in late 1964) – see our post here – Brooks Brothers Shirts  – in the process who to this day use the “original polo button-down collar” shirt on their button down range.

Launched in 1972 in 24 colours this pique cotton shirt – often features the number 3 – said to represents the number that the captain of the Polo team typically wears.

My Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt: Perhaps re-imagined and derivative but in the 1990’s a Ralph Polo shirt with its little polo-player logo was very good short hand for who you were. It continues to come in a range of amazing colours and if anything I suspect they are now cut even a little fuller than they once were. They are hard wearing and a great accompaniment to summer time short. I am very fond of them even it is only a rare sight to see me on a horse – with or without a polo stick in my hand.

Your Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt: Share your love for these fabulous shirts here….

Photo from Ralph Lauren with grateful thanks