Clarks Desert Boots

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The Fast Show – a UK TV show from the mid-1990’s  – had a wealth of characters created by Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse – amongs others. One particular favourite was “Louis Balfour” – played by John Thomson – who was the oh so slightly pretentious presenter of “Jazz Club” with a catchphrase – when all else failed – of “Nice!”. You rarely got to see his feet but my bet is that he would’ve worn Clarks Desert Boots

See here a sample of Jazz Club The Best of Louis Balfour’s Jazz Club

Now you have to follow this, Louis was cut from a very similar cloth to a couple of Art Masters at my last school. They insisted on being called “Chris” and “Steve” as indeed I suspect they were their real names and as 6th Formers it seemed odd to continue with “Sir”. They wore corduroy jackets – in brown and country green – one with contrasting leather elbow patches – they had a penchant for practical Farah Hopsack trousers – don’t ask – and each had several pairs of iconic Clarks Desert Boots.

Quite what desert there were planning to cross in leafy Cheshire was uncertain but none the less these two were simply the coolest guys in the school.  “Steve” with his long hair even drove a late reg VW Beetle – click here to our previous post Volkswagen Beetle – an icon re-imagined – you can imagine he was already ice cool to me.

Assured not to be bitten by scorpions nor rattle snakes, Clarks Desert Boots to this day are an iconic and a highly flexible wardrobe essential that you can wear with jeans, moleskins or chinos and they will always look the part. Just avoid wearing in the rain – they are suede and, after all, are intended for deserts!

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C. & J. Clark International Ltd, (“Clarks”) was founded in 1825 by Quaker brothers Cyrus and James Clark in Street, (Somerset, England) where its HQ is still based – although manufacturing is now predominantly undertaken in Asia. Clark’s continues to be 84% family owned.

Since 1879 the Clark’s trade mark has been the distinctive Glastonbury Tor with the St Michael’s tower.

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The Desert Boot was launched in 1950 having been designed by the co-founders, James’, great-grandson, Nathan Clark, a serving British Army Officer based in Burma. It is said that the Desert Boot was based on the unlined boots made in the bazaar’s of Cairo for returning British Army Officers during the Second World War.

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Post War the Desert Boot saw adoption by the Mod Culture in UK, the Beatnik Culture in the US and were known to be a favourite of the Student anit-capitalist demonstrations in Paris in May 1968.

Why not be like Steve McQueen or Liam Gallagher and get a pair of Clarks original Desert Boots – please click the links below the images below to be directed to AMAZON – the two links show the full colour range available.

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Clarks Desert Boot, Men’s Derby, Braun (Cola Suede), 10 UK

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Clarks Originals Desert Boot, Men’s Derby Lace-Up, Brown (Brown Sde), 9 UK 43 EU)

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Images courtesy of C & J Clark International Limited

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)

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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

 

 

Levi‘s 501

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501’s were seen as work-wear for much of its first sixty years being rechristened ‘blue jeans’ in the 1950’s.

Jacob Davis, a tailor, was approached by a workman’s wife asking for a stronger pair of trousers. He sought a solution to pocket and fly tearing experienced by workers using his denim trousers by applying copper rivets to the stress points of the garment. He then went in search of a partner to help make these early examples.

Levi Strauss was a dry goods vender who had sold Jacob the denim he needed for his early samples. They joined forces and the production which following its the grant of Patent on 20th May 1873  for “waist overalls” heralded a massive success.

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In 1886 the Two Horse leather patch was first used and added to the overalls.  In 1890 the Patent passed into the Public Domian, meaning the company lost their exclusive over riveted denim. As a result the company introduced the “501” as the definitive version of their denim work “waist overalls”, with copper rivets and the Two Horse leather and later the “leather-like” patch.

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By 1936 the Red Tab appeared. These ingenious and other design elements have ensured that Levi Strauss have been able to seek protection for their design against cynical copying. The company spend million of dollars annually protecting their Intellectual Property Rights.

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Always at the heart of youth culture, the universal appeal stems from its integrity, a loyalty to the original design, the highest quality denim and sturdy manufacture.

I have loved Levi’s jeans since a teenager. Whilst the waist band may have expanded – and indeed contracted on various occasions due to mad cabbage soup diets etc – I have been through zip-fly, yellow label and 360 degrees back to red-label button-fly 501.

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They are simply my favourite jeans that have seen me through endless concerts and music festivals. Dylan at Blackbush in 1977 (that included sleeping on Waterloo Station concourse due to a missed last train), to Glastonbury mud-caked, U2 and the Rolling Stones at Wembley to Mumford and Sons at Benicassim they have simply been more than a wardrobe anchor.

Today they combine perfectly with classic shoes, an Argentinian woven belt and a great shirt and/or jacket – depending on the season – for London creative business meetings. Less Revolution and more Evolution my 501s – and I now have several favourite pairs – are still beautifully made, ooze classic iconic style and are, above all, hugely dependable.

Would you like a pair of Levis 501? Click this AMAZON link to buy your own iconic jeans click the Amazon link below the image: 

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Levi’s 501 Original Fit Men’s Jeans, Blue (Onewash), 34W x 30L

The essential Argentinian belt can also be added here by clicking the Amazon link below the image – make sure you get the right length!

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Carlos Diaz Mens Womens Unisex Argentinian Brown Leather Embroidered Polo Belt (85 cm/ 32-34 Inches)

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Photo by Levi Strauss