Apollo 11 – the Moon landing’s legacy

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Hand’s up who remembers 21st July 1969? Did your parents wake you up, in what felt like the middle of the night, to watch on a small black and white TV screen the moment that Neil Armstrong, leader of the Apollo 11 mission, stepped out of the Lunar Module (‘Eagle’) to became the first person to walk onto the lunar surface? There are a handful of childhood events, including this momentous step, that this viewer, as an eleven year old, remembers with absolute awe and clarity.

The enormity of men being shot into space ahead a giant fuel canister to orbit the Earth and then be pointed in a different trajectory to the Moon’s orbit and surface, there to land safely, open the sealed hatch and climb out. Simply breathtaking both in its spirit and execution. The First Walk on the Moon was simply awe inspiring.

Armstrong was followed onto the Moon’s surface by his co-venturers, Buzz Aldrin. They spent a couple of hours making auspicious speeches and collecting rocks. After nearly a day in the Sea of Tranquility they blasted back to the command module (‘Columbia’) piloted by Michael Collins. They were returned to terra firma having safely splashed down in the Pacific on 24th July 1969.

I was certainly old enough to realize that the Mission to the Moon was the most magical blend of evolutionary technology of semi-conductors and computers, the guile of America’s military aviators, the obviously immense resources of the NASA Space Program. It was also the culmination of the dream of a brilliant and driven leader, the late President John F. Kennedy, who in 1961 launched his country’s aim to land a man safely on the Moon before the end of the decade.

Aside from the warm and fuzzy feeling of all things vintage and American, Coke fridges, leather sleeved varsity jackets, Levi’s and classic muscle cars what else can be seen as the legacy of man’s early musings with space travel?

The Apollo mission kick-started a series of major innovations the legacy of which continue to be seen, felt and enjoyed today. Some of the many spin-offs from the Space Race include the following:

The Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) scanner now more regularly used to detect cancer and other abnormalities was used to identify any imperfections in space components that would only be magnified by the unique stresses and environmental issues associated with zero gravity and the g-force associated with space travel.

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The Computer Microchip, the integrated circuits and semi-conductors used in the Apollo mission’s guidance software spawned the modern microchip that appears in everything from you laptop, to you TV remote control and your oven’s regulatory systems.

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Cordless tools. Lacking the inability to plug in electrical tools on the Moon’s surface, power tools including cordless drills and vacuum cleaners were developed – initially by Black & Decker in 1961 – with integral battery packs enabling the collection of rock and dust samples.

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In-Ear Infrared thermometer. A detector of infrared energy that is felt as heat that was developed to monitor the birth of stars found an alternative use with In-Ear thermometers.

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Freeze-dried food. Since the Moon mission we have been fascinated by rehydrated food, Thai pot soups, noodle dishes and the like. Originally devised to minimize weight these packets of goodness fueled the men in space. This technology had first been developed in the Second World War for carrying blood long distances without refrigeration. Nasa was first to create freeze dried iced cream – but it doesn’t seem to have been that popular amongst the astronauts.

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Home Insulation materials. If you have ever unrolled in the your attic reflective insulated matting you may not know that the shiny material used was developed to deflect radiation away from spacecrafts.

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Invisible braces. Each of my three children has received the attention of the dentists and the application of braces that resulted in perfectly straight teeth. The process has been improved by the use of transparent ceramic brace brackets made from materials developed for spacecraft.

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Joysticks as used on computer gaming consoles were devised for Apollo Lunar Rover.

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Memory foam – for many, me excluded, they say that sleeping on a memory foam mattress or pillow results in a splendid night’s sleep. For me they are usually too firm but the underlying tech was created to improve the comfort of aircraft seats and helmets.

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You may not be surprised to hear that satellite television technology, primarily devised to repair relay signals from spacecrafts and to unscramble satellite sound and images sent from space now sits at the core of home satellite driven services.

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At the optician when ordering a new pair of glasses you will almost certainly have been asked if you would like a ‘scratch resistant coating’ to be added. Substantially improving the long term wear and tear on glasses these coatings were developed to make astronaut helmet visors scratch resistant.

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Whilst shoe insoles have been around for years, indeed the likes of trusty beach worn Birkenstocks are based on the eponymous insole a challenge for athletic shoe companies was to adapt an insole for the Space missions boot designs to maximize on ventilation and springy comfort.

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An absolute must around any home is a smoke detector with good batteries. It may surprise you to know that Nasa invented the first adjustable smoke detector that was programmed with a level of sensitivity that prevented false alarms. Just as essential in the small cabins on board spacecrafts.

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The design of a space rocket is perhaps a classic example of drag reduction. Interestingly Nasa deployed the same principles of drag reduction to help create for Speedo a world beating, but highly controversial, swimsuit the LZR Racer.

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Aside from bottled oxygen, filtered and clean water was one of vital elements needed in space. NASA developed a filtering technique that killed bacteria in water. This has subsequently been used to deliver filtered water in millions of homes.

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Velcro – whilst not strictly a product developed for the Space Race, the system of a hook-and-loop fastener was originally conceived in 1941 by a Swiss engineer George de Mestral. NASA made significant use of touch fasteners in myriad of ways including the closing of astronauts’ suits, anchoring equipment during maintained and for trays at mealtimes to avoid them floating away.

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Artificial limbs – Nasa is a world leader in the science of robotics devised primarily to remotely control space vehicles. The technology had been adopted to give artificial limbs greater functionality.

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If you have ever completed the London Marathon, for example, you may recall crossing the line to be shrouded in a silver foil blanket. These blankets were developed in 1964 they are excellent at  reflecting infrared radiation but they also enable the body to they retain heat and reduce the risks from hypothermia.

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The Bacon hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell celebrated British engineer, Tom Bacon, developed an existing and century old technology to create a patented fuel cell that provided electrical power for the Apollo mission. The science that combined hydrogen and oxygen to create a reaction that caused heat that could be converted to electricity also had a useful by-product, water: which the astronauts drank. Fuel cells have been used to create electric vehicles including the Toyota Mirai, Honda Clarity and Mercedes-Benz F-Cell, where the technology is seen as a having great green credentials.

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The Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch is part of a range of manually winded chronometers launched by the Swiss watch brand in 1957 and used as part of Omega’s role as the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games. The “Moonwatch”, a combination of both timepiece and stopwatch, was water-resistant, shock-proof, and could withstand 12Gs of acceleration endured by the astronauts during their mission. It was first worn during NASA’s Gemini missions that included the first space walk. The Moonwatch was on the wrists of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, when the former two took their first steps on the Moon. It remains a firm favourite with those who love this Swiss watch brand which has created a series of Special Editions to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the first Moon landing.

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Radio Flyer

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If you, like me, are a fan of US movies and TV series, then the iconic Radio Flyer will be more than familiar. Indeed, I know they must be sold in other parts of the world, but like so many everyday iconic items of US life – check out our earlier post on Iconic US Sweets/Candies –  Iconic American Candy – Part 1 – I don’t think I have seen one for sale in the UK. Certainly, when my kids would have loved such a product they weren’t available.

For generations, US kids have carted themselves, several siblings, pets, toys and other important treasures in these charming red trolley wagons. A wonderful item  of great simplicity that’s use is limited only by the depths of a child’s imagination. As American as “Milk Duds” but what’s their story?

2017 saw the celebration of the first hundred years of the Radio Flyer. Antonio Pasin, a Venetian born son of a cabinet maker who, aged 16, in 1913 arrived in New York City to start a new life. In 1917, in Chicago, he started building wooden toy wagons and selling them to local shops. He was a jobbing joiner who built the wooden wagons to carry his tools.

Demand for the wagons led to Pasin forming the Liberty Coaster Company in 1923, and ten years after he made his first wooden wagons he was making pressed steel versions and selling them for just under $3.00. He was very interested in the many production techniques used in the local car industry, earning himself the nickname “Little Ford”. In the 1930’s he produced several versions of his “Liberty Coaster” including The Streak-O-Lite” and The Zephyr that echoed the Chrysler Airflow.

Renaming the company in 1930 the Radio Steel and Manufacturing, the brand name “Radio Flyer” stemming from Pasin’s fascination with the pioneers of Radio (Marconi) and Flight (Lindbergh).

Production was interrupted during the latter stages of the Second World War and turned to oil drum manufacture but the company survived. In 1987 Radio Steel and Manufacturinf became “Radio Flyer Inc” which has been overseen by Pasin’s grandson, Robert as CEO, since 1997.

The company’s range of Radio Flyer and associated products grows annually and aside from being voted a great company to work for, its iconic products are rooted deep in the warmth of the American psyche.

Images used with grateful thanks – Radio Flyer Inc., ClassicCars.com and Vintage Vending Inc.

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Favourite T-Shirts

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I have a favourite T Shirt – our featured image. It’s not the slightly lewd text, nor the “End of the Pier” – “Nudge, Nudge” – humour that appeals most to me. It’s the fact that Mrs W bought it over 20 years ago in New York City and it is loved as much for the item as the thought that went into its purchase.

Indeed it may have been on impulse – she doesn’t like shopping much – but it is the expression of her view towards me as her then relatively new husband who was coming to terms with his then slightly thinning hair. It’s been worn by us both over the years and amazingly it has outlasted many branded shirts that have been worn half as much.

I like T-Shirts especially as the summer turns to crank up the heat into the early 30’s.

T-Shirts have, in my view, to deliver in two simple respects. They need to be 100% cotton – whatever the brands try to persuade you of their new wonder fabric that will keep you as cool as a Polar Bear’s backside – sorry cotton is best. It’s also needs to be slightly on the big side allowing it to flap in whatever wind is available capturing some cooling and fanning effect as it goes.

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For me, some of the very best T-Shirts are made by Fruit of the Loom – they are consistently good and I really respect a company that stays loyal – in the main – to the one product that they are noted for and deliver year after year. We have featured Fruit of the Loom on Aestheticons before and you can read our previous post here – Fruit of the Loom – T shirts

I really like certain iconic T-Shirts that shout loudly about your preferences. Many of you will know of my love for New York City and the iconic Milton Glaser design – I ❤️ NY – is simply, though a little cliched by over familiarity, but as valid as a tattoo.

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Equally my London home is well represented by the shirts of the Hard Rock Cafe – again a little jaded and over-exposed – you can pick up the same shirt in London, Moscow or Marbella – but still its a cultural icon. Hard Rock Cafe T Shirt

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Last year I picked up on a ranking of the 10 most Iconic T-Shirts – Iconic T-Shirts    there will be those who will make it their mission – not in any charitable campaign sense but just as a bit of fun – to seek to collect all 10. Not for me, but please go ahead.

Enjoy the summer and enjoy your T-Shirts and I’d love to know which T-Shirts are your treasures!

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Image credits – with grateful thanks – Milton Glaser, Hard Rock Cafe and Fruit of the Loom.

 

Iconic American Candy – Part 1

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“Two countries separated by a common language” is an expression widely attributed to the author, George Bernard Shaw sometime in the 1940’s. This is applicable to many elements of US/UK life, none more so than in the area of confectionary.

Whilst many people raised in the UK at any point in the last fifty year will have a more than a passing familiarity with the English sweets featured in our previous post – see our previous post here – Iconic English Sweets – Part 1 I suspect that there may only be a few Brits who will have any emotional bond to those iconic candies (obviously not “sweets”) hailing from the US including Hersey Bars, Tootsie Rolls, Life Savers or Milk Duds.

I recently saw a store on London’s Oxford Street – the Tottenham Court Road end – that sells nothing but US candy and US versions of known and lesser known cereals like Golden Grahams, Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms. We are familiar with these brands from their presence, to some extent, on our supermarket shelves but also from holidays to the US and strategic product placement in, particularly Hollywood-made films.

Why not try a pack of Lucky Charms or Fruit Loops by clicking the following AMAZON links

General Mills Lucky Charms Extra Value Size 453 g (Pack of 2)

Kelloggs Froot Loops Regular Size Usa Version 345 g

I wanted to major on a few iconic US candy brands to tug at a nostalgic sweet teeth of our US readers but I also wanted to help raise the profile of certain iconic US brands to a wider international audience.

Hershey Bars 

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Like many slightly cockeyed views of those products that made the US great, in Europe we have an embedded view of Hershey as having gained prominence from the kitbag of US Military GI’s.

The success story – and there were previous failures – goes back to 1886 when Milton Snavely Hershey founded a successful caramel making business, Lancaster Caramel, in rural Pennsylvania. The business grew rapidly and exported, particularly to the UK, where an early connection with a British importer had proved fruitful.

The World Columbian Exhibition of 1893 had sparked in Hershey a desire to make chocolate and in 1894 the first product bearing the Hershey name – Hershey’s Cocoa – was launched.

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In 1900 Milton sold the Lancaster Caramel business – for $1m – in order to concentrate on chocolate production, launching Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars the same year. A year previous he’d developed the Hershey process that made excellent milk chocolate economically from the excellent raw materials – particularly local milk – available in their rural setting. In 1907 he introduced the small foiled wrapped cones of chocolate “Hershey’s Kisses” – a staple for US Valentine’s Day.

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Hershey was raised a Pennsylvanian Mennonite (whose Protestant forbears had hailed from Friesland in the Netherlands) and was a noted philanthropist. In the early 1900’s Milton starting building model towns, schools and leisure amenities for his workers and the local community. Even during the Great Depression, Hershey commissioned substantial building projects in the company town of Hershey, PA.

By the late 1920’s a US staple “S’mores” – a combination of biscuit, Hershey’s chocolate and marsh mallow – became increasingly popular.

The majority of chocolate used in Military rations are made by the Hershey Company. Between 1940 and 1945, over 3 billion of the D ration (that includes six squares of chocolate) and Tropical Bars were produced and distributed to the military. By the end of hostilities the Hershey Company were producing 24m ration bars a week.

Milton died on 13th October 1945. He and wife, Kitty, were childless so their efforts in establishing schools and assisting local families were their lasting legacies. In 1918, three years after his wife’s death, Hershey transferred all of his shares in the Hershey Company – then thought to be then worth around $60m and now valued at around $12bn – to the Milton Hershey School Trust fund, the school that he and Kitty had established in 1909 primarily for local children in need. The school continues to be one of the best funded secondary schools in the US.

The Hershey Company produced Rolo and Kit Kat for Nestle in the US as a result of perpetuity agreements entered into with Rowntree’s in 1978.

Milton and Kitty had spent the winter of 1911 in Nice (France) and Milton needed to return to the US. The Titanic was to sail on 10th April 1911 on its maiden voyage and a cheque bearing Hershey’s signature for $300 payable to the Titanic’s operator, the White Star Line, drawn on the Hershey Trust Company demonstates Milton’s intention to travel aboard. For some reason he elected to return earlier to the US and sailed on 6th April 1912 aboard the SS Amerika.

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Try the iconic Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar By clicking the following AMAZON link

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Hershey Milk Chocolate Giant Bar 198 g (Pack of 3)

You may also like to try Hershey’s Kisses – they are delicious – Valentine’s Day anyone?

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Hershey’s Kisses (1.13kg)

Tootsie Rolls

Tootsie Roll are a sort of cross between toffee (or taffy in US) and chocolate that were first patented in the US in 1907 and launched in September of 1908.

In 1896, founder and inventor, Leo Hirschfield, who named his iconic product after his daughter Clara’s nickname, had established for his employers, Stern & Staalberg, a small New York City based candy store. Leaving the business in unexplained circumstances in 1920 and later in 1922, sadly, committed suicide.

The company was acquired in 1935 by Bernard D Rubin – of Joseph Rubin and Sons Tootsie Rolls packaging supplier. Rubin moved the company to larger premises in Hoboken (New Jersey). He died in 1948 having hugely increased the businesses value. His brother, William, succeeded him as President until 1962 when his daughter Ellen Gordon took over. Her late husband Melvin was Chairman and CEO for many years. The business became Tootsie Roll Industries in 1966 and has a world-wide market with around 64m Tootsie Rolls being made daily.

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Why not enjoy some classic candy for your family – see the following AMAZON links

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Tootsie Roll Midgees 184 g (Pack of 4)

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TOOTSIE ROLL JAR – 96 BARS (14G EACH BAR) – RETRO AMERICAN CANDY

Life Savers

Life Savers are an iconic US brand of circular hard candy – deriving their name from the life-belts used on boats – and are available in, primarily, mint and fruit flavours that are wrapped in waxed paper and aluminum foil rolls. The product was invented in 1912 by Clarence Crane of Cleveland (Ohio) and was intended as an alternative to chocolate, in that they would not melt.

Crane sold his “Pep-O-Mint” trademark and formula to Edward Noble in 1913 for $2,900 who established the Life Savers and Candy Company. In 1919, Noble’s brother developed machinery to mass produce the candies that had previously been made by hand. He sold the tubes of Pep-O-Mint Life Savers for a nickel – 5 cents. Tinfoil rolls were replaced by aluminum rolls in 1925. By the same year, as a result of progress in manufacturing technology the “whole in the middle” first appeared in the fruit candy.

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Production was moved to Port Chester (New York) and a custom designed and dressed building with Life Saver images was constructed. Production took place at Port Chester between 1920 and 1984.

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The first five-flavours roll was launched in 1935. Edward Noble ran the business for more than forty years until the late 1950’s when he sold it to the Squibb Corporation.  In 1981, Nabisco Brands Inc. acquired Life Savers from the E.R. Squibb Corporation and in 2004, the US Life Savers business was acquired by Wrigley’s a division of Mars from 2008.

In 1947 Rowntree’s (Nestle) in the UK, a former licensed manufacturer of Life Savers, launched a similar product, the “Polo” mint resulting in an ongoing trade mark dispute.

Try some iconic US candies here by clicking the following AMAZON links

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5 Flavours 32 g (Pack of 6)

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Lifesavers Wint O Green Bag 177 g (Pack of 2)

Altoids

An advert for a business in the 1990’s – I think it was Hanson Trust –  had the tag line was “a Company From Here Doing Rather Well Over There”. The same could be said for the London based 1780’s creation of Altoids made by Smith & Company – later to become the famed toffee brand of Callard and Bowser – now part of Mars – in the 19th century.  Altoids are still one of the top selling mint brands in the US market.

The Altoid slogan “The Original Celebrated Curiously Strong Mints”, referencing the strength of peppermint oil used in the original lozenge is still displayed prominently on its packaging tins.

In the 1920’s the now iconic Altoid tin replaced previous cardboard packaging. The tins have become highly collectible and have – aside from the obvious hobby uses for storing screws and nails – doubled as survival tins, been the customized home for small personal computers and even emergency cooking pots for those stranded in snow.

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Production was moved from Bridgend in South Wales to Chattanooga Tennessee to be closer to its prime market.

Try Altoids – they are really very good – by clicking the following AMAZON link

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Altoids Curiously Strong Peppermints 50 g (Pack of 12)

Milk Duds

It appears that the entire US candy market – and now a word from our sponsor – is “Brought to you in Association with Hershey”! Milk Duds are a chocolate-covered caramel drop and another Hershey product.

The perhaps unusual name comes the large amount of milk used in their production and the word “dud” apparently came as a result of employee’s reactions to the original aim of having a perfectly round chocolate-covered product that was proving impossible to create.

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Milk Duds were first created in 1926 by Sean le Noble of Chicago. In 1928, Holloway took over production from Le Noble & Company. In 1960, Beatrice Foods acquire Holloway and in 1986 Leaf purchased Milk Duds which in turn was acquired in 1996 by Hershey Foods Corporation.

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Hershey’s Milk Duds Candy 85 g (Pack of 6)

Reese’s Pieces

Yet another Hershey brand which was acquired in 1963 following the death of founder Henry Burnett Reese in 1956, the businesses was founded in 1923. Reese who’s signature “Peanut Butter Cups” are a favourite in the US was inspired when he worked for Milton Hershey as a shipping forman to start out on his own. The stock-for-stock merger now values the Reese family interest in Hershey as worth $1.8bn which in 2017 delivered an annual dividend of $42m.

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I had a business colleague in the mid-1980 who loved Reese’s Pieces and her luck was in as we had frequent US visitors who would be greeted with a cheery “Got any Reese’s Pieces?” on their arrival in London. For the sanity of all they would often dig deep into huge JFK Duty Free carrier bags and off load onto my colleagues desk!

If you ask an English child to combine Peanut Butter and Chocolate their grimace may suggest that their response is confused. Why would you do that? In the US – and increasingly the UK – everything from a Kit Kat, Twix and Snicker’s bars are now available in Peanut Butter flavour. Even bespoke chocolatiers now cover nuts and toffee with “salted caramel” – after all that’s the core connection between the Peatnut Butter and the Chocolate is saltiness.

Reese’s Pieces and their many variants of this now classic combination are highly successful. Why not satiete your curiosity with a bumper box from Reese’s click this AMAZON link:

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Reeses American Candy Gift Hamper | Peanut Butter Chocolate Selection | Assortment Includes Peanut Butter Cups Pieces Sticks Nut Bars Miniatures | 18 Items in Retro Sweets Gift Box

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Image Credits – The Hershey Company, Tootsie Roll Industries, Mars and Kellogg’s

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