Unsung but Essential Icons

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As I control the creative direction of Aestheticons I choose what’s featured. Largely that means that I chose aspirational gems. However, instead of looking up in awe and appreciation we need to consider the more mundane.

The items featured in this piece are neither glamorous, alluring – unless you are into the really weird – nor really do anything in excess of their primary function. At that, they are superlative and without them elements of our busy lives would be a struggle. They are Unsung – not enjoying massive Instagram accounts with millions of adoring followers – but Essential Icons.

Cable ties

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I defy anyone who derives the smallest amount of pleasure from tending a garden, to fix a plant to a trellace or a bamboo cane or a brush screening to a gate without the use of a cable tie. Not only can this devilishly small but wonder strips of plastic fixing be a the gardener’s friend, they, with equal competence, support the work of electrician, plumbers and builders and many others in thousands of conceived and yet to be conceived ways.

Known as originally as Ty-Rap, cable ties were first invented, primarily to secure airplane wiring into the bulkhead, in 1958 by US based electrical business Thomas & Betts and more particularly their employee, Maurus C. Logan. Mr Logan developed into production the idea he’d conceived of aboard a Boeing during construction. The Patent was submitted on 24th June 1958.

Why not add to your tool drawer with this Amtech selection of 500 cable ties? Click the AMAZON link below the image

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Amtech S0680 Assorted Cable Tie, 500-Piece

WD40

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As our readers know I Like to cycle but over the winter months my bike has a tendency to be a little neglected and exposed to the elements. When the cooler seasons have done their worst on my waistline the time is right to look for the foot pump and adaptor and get some air into those bike tyres. The tyres are only half the battle. The gears, brakes and chain scream out for the TLC that can only be lavished on them by WD40 the spray delivered a light penetrating, protecting and lubricating oil.

As the saying goes a “Sucess has many Fathers” and there appears to be some controversy as to originator of WD-40. It seems that the formula of WD-40 was developed in 1953 by The Rocket Chemical Company in San Diego, California and first produced in commercially available quantities in 1958. The contributions – depending on sources – of a Iver Norman Lawson and a Norman Larson (President of Rocket) are named as the “inventor” of the formula with the name WD-40 seemingly stemming from the expression “Water Displacement  40th Formula” – suggesting there may have been a 39th, 38th and so on versions of the formula.

It may be that Lawson invented the low viscosity formula – still a trade secret but still has the original and distinctive smell – and sold it to Rocket where Larson had the bright idea of putting it into aerosol cans. It arrived in the UK in the late 1960’s.

For those many jobs around the home or office for which only WD-40 will do, why not pick up a can or two by clicking the AMAZON link below the image?

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3 x WD-40 Smart Straw Aerosol 420ml Penetrant, Lubricant, Releasant Oil / Stops squeaks / Cleans and protects / Loosens rusted parts / Frees sticky mechanisms

Paper Clips

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As a lawyer I am very pro the paper-less office, technology can teach us loads about sensible digital storage and retrieval. In parking our fears and posting to the Cloud we make a statement that’s more about efficiency and less about tree hugging.

For years we relied on the trust paper clip to secure our files, ensure correct attachments to letters and avoid inevitable embarrassment on a windy day. Called a “Trombone” in French, a literal use that I find very appealing, the simple paper clip does exactly what the tin says.

History tells us that in the US on April 23rd 1867 Samuel B. Fay successfully obtained the first Patent for a bent wire paper clip. On November 7th 1899 William D Middlebrook obtained a Patent for a paper clip making machine that produced an item – made popular as the “Gem Paper Clip” which went on sale in the UK in the 1870’s – and are similar to those sold today. The name Gem – trademarked in the US by Cushman and Denison in 1904 – became known Worldwide and in Sweden, I am told, that the word for paper clip is “Gem”.

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No desk is complete without a selection of plastic coated paper clips – please click the AMAZON link below the image to get yours.

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Zealor Paper Clips with Assorted Colors and Sizes (28 mm, 50 mm, 100 mm)

Image Credits – with grateful thanks – http://www.officemuseum.com, Zealor and the WD-40 Company Inc.

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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,

Bob Dylan

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I wasn’t early to the party. It was about 1975 when my sister introduced me to Bob Dylan’s astonishingly iconic performances on music-cassette. It was a Greatest Hits Album with Dylan shot in blue in profile on the inlay card and I am forever grateful.

My sister had a small Sony Music-cassette compact system featuring a cassette deck and radio with two detachable speakers – mid-seventies cool for sure. Remember this?

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She was training as a Nurse in the City of London at one of the UK finest teaching hospitals, paving the way for my arrival in the Smoke within eighteen months. She is two years older, had tried Gitanes before me and she had discovered Bob Dylan before me.

The Greatest Hits album – was in fact it was the Greatest Hits Volume 2 – from 1971 and was released in view of the dirth of new material from Dylan at the behest of Columbia Record’s label boss, Clive Davis. He became of some influence over my later career in music and some time later he left under a cloud. Initially reticent, Dylan had then agreed to compile it himself adding unreleased material from the Basment Tapes era but I am getting ahead here….

Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Volmne 2 – click the link below the image

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Vol. 2-Greatest Hits

I simply don’t believe anyone who says they don’t like Bob Dylan’s songs. I love almost all. That’s like saying I don’t really like Spring or Tulips. I get that his singing may sometimes be a challenge. His voice varies hugely from the sonous and walnut to a croak but his words, his rhymes and his use of language are simply sublime. Weaving morality tales and fables with the support of a simple folk riff, a country slide-guitar, a brassy pomp or a more complicated cajun orchestration.

Dylan – together with able foot-soldiers Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen – is the Voice of several generations. From the early 1960’s and the era of the Protest Song and the Civil Rights movement, to Woodstock and to the Summer of Love – see here our previous post – Peace Sign and The Summer of Love – to later “difficult albums” that explore love, loss and religion to more recent masterpieces that dwell on death and legacy.

In 2016, Dylan became the first songwriter ever  to win Nobel Prize For Literature.

Dylan has sold more than 100m copies of more than sixty albums. He has written, prolifically, broadcasted and podcasted for years and has nurtured a diverse and talented family.

I have seen Dylan perform live on several occasions including at Harvey Goldsmith’s promoted “The Picnic at Blackbushe Aerodrome” show in 1978. I still have the poster!

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Despite at times ill-health, his commitment to endless touring – since the late 1990’s – has become an enduring legacy allowing the faithful to flock to see his performances. In the earlier years shows performances were loyal to familiar songs, more recently Dylan’s treatment of his standards, deconstructing them to within an inch of their lives, has not always been well received. I guess the master artist needs stimulation and revising original orchestrations must be a way to keep things interesting. After all they are his songs!

I was in Los Angeles in 1980 and visiting the celebrated and iconic Polo Lounge at Beverley Hills Hotel. Arriving in a city taxi we pulled towards the entrance of the hotel and there, getting into a cherry red compact car, was the diminutive and slightly stooped stature of our hero. Something very domestic, almost deliberately improverished and above all not really giving a f**k about expectation, perception or pretense. The very anthesis of the image of Californian life.

Every filmed interview of Dylan – and there really aren’t many – from 1965 in San Francisco, to D A Pennebaker’s “Don’t Look Back” – 1967 traipse around Europe – to the media coverage of the his investigature as a Nobel Prizewinner is punctuated by his well intentioned and sincere confusion by all the fuss. The younger Dylan explaining to an overly fawning interviewer, who was clearly irritating, that he had nothing of interest to share and shouldn’t presume to be able to. His reluctant assumption of the role as “Spokesman of his Generation” is just ours for the invention. His “I just set up my stall, played a few tunes and the rest is down to you” appears to be his honest belief. No master manipulator, no synical plan.

Like many have before you – can you help understand a little more about Dylan’s work by reading his own writing from the autobiographical “Chronicles Part One”? – Click the link below the image 

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Chronicles: Volume One

Don’t tell me you haven’t tried! We’d all love to be able to master the riffs that make the songs sing – some will, some inevitably wont! I am one…..

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Bob Dylan Made Easy for the Guitar: 1

The Music – there are sixty albums to chose from but can I suggest a couple of starting places. I’d also suggest that you don’t stream – please enjoy the packaging as well as the songs – please click the link below the image 

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

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The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Bringing It All Back Home

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Bringing It All Back Home (2010 Mono Version)

Blood on The Tracks – for me probably the Best…..

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Blood On The Tracks

Desire

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Desire

Time Out Of Mind

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Time Out Of Mind

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Images courtesy of Milton Glaser, Sony, CBS and Columbia Record.

Baseball Caps

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Frankly, whilst I love baseball caps and have several cherished examples, I don’t really think they suit me. Its like my head is the wrong shape or my ears protrude but trust me that doesn’t stop me.

I particularly like the design classic and iconic, New York Yankees cap and I have had two, both reliably sized 7 1/2 inches. Both are classic New era 59/FIFTY fitted caps (a design that dates from 1954) , with my first being purchased in the early 1980’s from a store in New York, it’s a deep boiled melton 100% wool that has gradually shrunk but stayed colour fast despite surviving ski trip snow storm. My second from the New York Yankees store off Times Square which is now 100% polyester.

For many outside the US they may not even connect the cap with baseball – where the sport is less known. The appearance of the cap, titled side ways or backwards on a rappers head, in gold or silver as an essential accessory to a cat walk show, the cap’s reach is much more than a piece of sportswear. Go ahead ask any non-affionado about Babe Ruth Joe DiMaggio or Derek Jeter.

The NY Yankees caps are often seen in the media on noted fans like Tom Cruise wearing them in movies such as in 2013’s “Oblivion”. Having been to Yankee Stadium there is every chance you’ll see celebrity fans appearing on the huge TV screens. During a recent visit preceded by the playing of “You Can Call me Al” was a smiling and cap wearing Paul Simon.

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Even the prestigious Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York has created, with the guys from New Era, a special limited edition (at $48.00 plus p&p) New York Yankee/MoMA cap.

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The New Era Cap Company was founded in Buffalo (New York) by Ehrhardt Koch in 1920. He had borrowed $5,000 from an aunt to start on his own. Koch’s first production took place on the third floor of 1830 Genesee Street in Buffalo and in the first year 60,000 caps were made.

The first Major League Baseball (MLB) caps were first manufactured in 1934 with the first licensor being Cleveland Indians. The 59/FIFTY On-field caps first became available to the general public in 1978. In 1993, New Era were granted an MLB wide license to make all MLB teams on field caps with an equivalent deals from the National Football League (NFL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) was signed in 2012 and 2017, respectively.

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I particularly like the NFL team, New Orlean Saints, and the “Fleur de Lys” logo on their caps. Get your own one here by clicking the following AMAZON link NFL New Orleans Saints Heather Crisp 9FORTY Adjustable Cap, One Size, Black Heather

1996 the film director, Spike Lee, specifically asked New Era for a red New York Yankees cap – not a team colour – an event that is seen as the dawn of a new era which saw the New York Yankees cap becoming associated as much with the streets as the ball park.

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Get you own New York Yankees Cap by clicking the following AMAZON link New Era Cap | 9FIFTY Snapback | New York Yankees | Navy/White (Medium – Large)

Photo credit to the New Era Cap Company

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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Converse – Chuck Taylor All Star

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The Converse Rubber Shoe Company was created in 1908 by Marquis Mills Converse in Malden, Massachusetts, the iconic All Star sports shoe was designed by the company in 1917. It consisted of a rubber sole with a canvas upper and had been designed for the pro basketball league players.

The original shoe’s innovative detail was the “loose lining” of soft canvas intended to move along with sweaty gym socks and prevent blisters.

Converse sponsored “The Converse All Star” basketball team and in 1921, Charles “Chuck” Taylor joined the team. In addition to selling the shoes, which he loved, Mr Taylor proposed design changes to the shoes to improve support and a patch for ankle protection. He also travelled to high schools across the US majoring on the fundamentals of the game.

The shoes’ sales started to take off by 1960’s Converse Chuck Taylor All Star were being worn by ninety percent of pro and college basketball players.

Gradually the shoes broke out from being purely an athletic shoe to become a regular site off the basketball court. Being particularly popular with musicians from Elvis Presley to Kurt Cobain to Miley Cyrus!

In 2003 Converse Chuck Taylor All Star became a subsidiary of Nike, Inc.

My Converse Chuck Taylor All Star: Despite owning a dark blue pair in the late 1970’s this post is more for my three kids each of who has worn and loved Converse All Stars for many years. Whether they are in canvass or leather – a great option particularly for the low-top versions – they have invariably been part of school uniform but only rarely seen on a basketball court.

My brother in law has to get special mention as he had a contrasting pair to complete his wedding day attire – his very clear personal style statement – to a lovely day.

Your Converse Chuck Taylor All Star – please share your experiences, we’d love to hear them. How? If you complete “Leave a Reply” section below you will contribute to the discussion. As we are an international site you may post in any language.

 

Photo from Converse

Cross Classic Century – Sterling Silver ballpen

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The Cross family business was founded in Providence (Rhode Island) in 1846 by Richard Cross who manufactured gold and silver casings for pencils. Richard’s son, Alonzo T Cross, inherited the business from his father and developed a host of innovations including the predecessors of the mechanical pencil and modern ball-pen.

Cross pens are the essence of understatement and their simple, iconic and fine Art Deco lines make them timeless. The ladies’ Classic Century is elegant and its Sterling Silver body acquires an allure with age – a patina that, in my view, should only rarely be cleaned.

I was in New York looking for a gift for my wife and there is something classically American about this iconic and authentic pen that forms part of a range that was launched in 1946.  Its patented twist-action barrel sparked a design revolution and its sleek profile has found an army of loyal fans.

Cross is, perhaps, not regarded as being a foremost luxury brand but for me the range, style and workmanship are underrated. The Classic Century is an authentic American classic with a trade mark design that evokes the majesty of certain of New York’s skyline. See our earlier post on The iconic Chrysler Building Chrysler Building, New York City

In 2013 the business of AT Cross was purchased by Clarion Capital Partners LLC.

Should you like me be tempted to buy the special lady in your life an heirloom pen then I can highly recommend the Cross Classic Century – please click the following AMAZON link below the image – to gift this beautiful pen.

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Cross Century Classic Hallmark Silver Ball Point Pen

You may also be interested to add the matching and equally iconic Century Classic Sterling Silver Pencil to this wonderful gift. Please click the Amazon link below the image

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Cross Classic Century Sterling Silver 0.7mm Pencil (H300305)

Don’t risk losing you beautiful and valuable pens – keep them in a bespoke designed leather holder – available for one or two pens – please click the AMAZON link below the image

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Cross Classic Century Pencil Cases, 15 cm, Black

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Image Credits AT Cross & Co Inc. – with grateful thanks.